The future of our environment has been on everyone’s minds lately, and rightfully so. Sustainable practices are gaining more and more social momentum and governments worldwide are being pressured to address this topic. Central to ensuring an environmentally friendly future for humankind is the global energy industry. Without the production and distribution of clean, renewable energy on a macro level, it would be nearly impossible to preserve the healthy state of our planet.
While there is still a long way to go before we become green, we can be optimistic about the measures taken in some regions. Cleaner energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydroelectricity are steadily overtaking fossil fuels as the dominant means of power generation in some developed countries. “For the first time, the European Union generated more electricity (38%) from renewables in 2020 than from fossil fuels (37%),” reports news magazine The Week.
To examine this timely topic in more detail and the opportunities available to students interested in renewable energy, let’s look at Scotland as a case study.
Powering it up with renewable energy
Scotland, a vibrant country to the north of England, has long been a trailblazer in the oil and gas industry. But even more importantly, it is becoming a world leader in renewable energy too, according to The Independent.
For the past five years, Scotland’s use of renewable sources of electricity has been steadily improving. Starting from 54% in 2016, today a whopping 90% of Scotland’s gross electricity comes from renewable sources.
“Technologies like onshore and offshore wind, hydro power and solar are providing the equivalent of more than 90% of Scotland’s electricity demand, as well as providing environmental and economic benefits across the country,” explains Morag Watson, director of policy at Scottish Renewables.
Such a fast-developing industry is a dream come true not only for the environment and for our planet. It can also be a source of livelihood and economic prosperity for the countries that have effective and consistent strategies in place. In the case of Scotland, experts believe that green energy is increasingly beneficial for providing new jobs and employing skilled professionals.
“We’re in the grips of a climate crisis and renewables will continue to play a vital role in powering the country, creating jobs and reducing climate emissions,” highlights Fabrice Leveque, head of policy at WWF Scotland.
Boom in environmental studies
“As the renewable energy industry grows, it also increases the need for professionals with expertise. Ideally, students should look for courses with a specialisation,” says Flavio Bishop Cabral, education expert and director of Strategic Partnerships at Advent Group.
Fortunately, universities are already tapping into this demand by offering exciting new postgraduate degrees in sustainable fields. Although renewable energy is not a new concept, there are a lot of cutting-edge innovations and fast-paced processes at its centre, making it a truly exciting career path. In that sense, now might be the perfect time to explore environmental Masters programmes.
Scotland is no exception. With institutions such as Robert Gordon University (RGU), which carries the legacy of more than three centuries of local education and growth, students can rely on top-level scientific training for the rigorous energy sector. Sustainability and Energy Transitions, Solar Energy Systems, and Oil, Gas and Renewable Energy Law are just three of the many postgraduate courses available at RGU.
According to Flavio, the international character of the studies is essential for opening a world of opportunities to students and graduates, wherever they may be located. “The chances of employment in sustainable energy are endless, either for those who want to learn and stay in Scotland, or apply their knowledge back to their home countries, taking back innovative ideas,” Flavio notes.
Sustainability goes beyond science
Young professionals who are passionate about environmental studies do not necessarily have to go for a scientific Masters if they want to make a difference. Employers are also looking for diverse talent that can contribute to various diverse roles. For example, university graduates in the arts and humanities are sought-after in the workforce, too, The Guardian reports.
And even programmes with a mostly scientific focus are smart enough to include other elements in their studies, as some Masters participants explain first-hand. “There are excellent opportunities that could come from taking this [Solar Energy Systems] course, and it’s not just engineering, but it could involve things such as solar energy finance and business management,” shares Abdullah Alamoudi, PhD student at Robert Gordon University.
Rising employability for graduates
Masters graduates with an expertise in sustainability will be increasingly employable in 2021 and in the future, journalist Abby Young-Powell highlights for The Guardian.
Just recently, the UK government announced its new plan for a “green industrial revolution”, billed at GBP 12 billion. What are its goals? Quadrupling offshore wind power by 2030 and boosting hydrogen production alongside a range of other measures. With these ambitious targets in the UK and the positive example from Scotland, university students can expect solid hiring prospects in the energy sector.
This optimistic outlook is not confined just to the UK. A recent report by Power for All forecasts that by 2023 the decentralised renewable energy sector could provide 210,000 direct, informal jobs in India, 30,000 in Kenya, and 24,000 in Nigeria. “But only if countries develop the workforce to fuel this energy revolution,” SEforALL highlights.
Thanks to the variety of postgraduate courses, graduates with a specialisation can secure an advantage over students in other renewable energy courses. Completing the MSc programme in Solar Energy Systems at RGU in Scotland, for example, opens up opportunities for roles such as Solar Energy Project Manager, Solar PV Design Engineer, Solar Research Analyst, Project Engineer in Solar Energy, and more.
Particularly in terms of solar energy, the International Energy Agency revealed in a 2019 report that its renewable capacity is set to expand by 50% by 2024, led by solar panels technology – another strong indication that more UK jobs will be opening up as a result.
So, it seems like environmental studies are not just the next big hype, but a timely reflection of the real world. They pave the way to the most exciting new job opportunities for those who learn how to transition from oil and gas to renewable energy.
Are you ready to lead the companies that will make the world cleaner and greener?
Unimy and Beyond is a recruitment partner of Robert Gordon University. If you want to learn more about gaining admission to RGU’s postgraduate courses and the availability of partial scholarships, please reach out on email@example.com