Energy is an integral part of the modern world, with engineers and technicians facing challenges around global energy needs. The rising importance and recognition of climate change and the growing world demand for energy has brought the topic to the forefront of the public and political agenda. As a result of this, a rethink of the agenda on a global scale is required.
The global consumption of marketed energy is predicted to increase by 49% from 2007 to 20351, with non-OECD economies accounting for the largest projected increase in energy demand.
Electricity continues to be the world’s fastest growing form of end-use energy consumption. Due to rising living standards, net worldwide electricity generation is predicted to rise by 2.3% per year from 2007 to 2035, with the strongest growth in non-OECD countries2. In some OECD countries there is the significant probability of a switch to electricity for road transport and the replacement of gas fuel for heating with electrically driven heat pumps. This could double electricity demand within the same timescales.
This results in an energy paradigm shift, with the sector becoming a key focus for policy makers and investment, creating a huge demand for professional skills. Issues and challenges vary from country to country, presenting an opportunity for the IET to be the natural home for the global energy community.
The UK employs 121,000 people in the electricity, gas and steam supply industries and these companies have an annual turnover in excess of £93 billion3
Energy & Utility Skills (EU Skills) has estimated that the power industry will need to recruit 35,000 new employees by 2024. It is vital that the quality of education and skill providers are increased to train these new recruits. This challenge is in addition to the need for extra training of staff and managing the loss of 80% of its current workforce as they retire. There has never been a more exciting time to work in the energy sector.
To take the UK as a case study, the following outlines potential future developments in the energy sector.
The above points, coupled with an ageing infrastructure and an environment where achieving public acceptance of new infrastructure is increasingly difficult, highlighting the huge challenge ahead.
The fuel mix for the UK’s electricity supply remains heavily reliant on gas and coal (Figure 1). In addition to the need to move towards a low carbon economy, there is also the challenge of ensuring a secure supply of oil, gas and electricity.
The IET has core strength in the energy industry, in particular the fields of electrical power transmission and distribution. Through this sector the IET will look to further its position as an industry thought leader.
1 International Energy Outlook 2010
2 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
3 Office for National Statistics 2010