Talent Shortage Threatens Renewables Growth

A shortage of human capital, especially experienced business leaders, is presenting an obstacle to further growth of the growing clean energy industry, a new study finds. According to a joint report by New Energy Finance and recruitment firm Heidrick & Struggles that looks into top-level recruitment in the clean energy sector, the issue is rising up the agenda in sectors such as wind and solar energy and biofuels, as investment in specialist businesses climbs.

The central finding of the research is that business leaders regard the recruitment issue facing the sector as a serious challenge. Some 37% of respondents said they saw the recruitment challenge as “very serious,” and a further 59% described it as “moderately serious,” with only 4% not concerned. Senior managers said that finding executives to drive the growth of their businesses was a key challenge for the next 12-18 months, at least comparable with other concerns such as the availability of projects and assets, capital availability and cost, and government and regulatory support.

The survey results showed that clean energy firms see three high level posts as particularly challenging to fill; Chief Technical Officer, Chief Executive Officer and Senior Project Managers. Overall, firms said that the shortage of senior management was even more serious than the shortage of technical skills and scientific talent.

Another conclusion was that firms are having to look hard outside their sector for top-level recruits. Just 32% of respondents said that most staff came with significant experience in the clean energy sector. Nearly half said most recruits came with experience in the traditional energy sector.

Michael Liebreich, CEO of New Energy Finance, said the research “has shown that very rapid growth in investment in clean energy is putting strain on the availability of senior managers with sector experience. There is strong momentum behind the growth of clean energy worldwide, with new investment up nearly fivefold between 2004 and 2007, but this is creating shortages not just of components such as silicon and transport infrastructure such as crane ships for offshore wind, but also of human capital.”

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