As part of its drive towards its 2020 target of 15% of UK energy coming from renewable sources, the UK Government created a Renewable Energy Roadmap. Published in 2011, the roadmap identified the creation of energy from waste as one of its key target areas to achieve this aim. In practical terms, this means that a lot of investment is flooding into this area – and with it comes job opportunities.
Whilst creating energy from the incineration of waste is nothing new, in recent years, brand new technology has allowed this to be done in a more efficient and less carbon-producing way. These technologies, such as fluidised bed gasification, anaerobic digestion and solar PV technologies, turn previous landfill waste into electricity or heating. Since these technologies are relatively new, there is a relative shortage of engineers with the right skills.
How are firms filling this skillset?
One major project that has been underway for several years is the Glasgow Recycling and Renewable Energy Centre. The centre, when it begins operating in early 2016, will be one of the most advanced waste management facilities in Europe. Glasgow City Council says that it currently handles 350,000 tonnes of waste every year, the vast majority of which (74%) ends up in landfill. With annual hikes in landfill tax and ambitious Scottish Government waste targets focusing on waste reduction, re-use, enhanced recycling and recovering renewable energy from what remains, the council has been planning for change.
The aim of the new centre is to divert 90% of green bin residual waste away from landfill, saving millions of pounds, releasing recyclable resources from household waste and produce valuable heat and power. It will deliver a saving to the city of circa £254m during the 25 year contract, will create 250 new jobs, including 25 apprentices, and will support local social enterprises and small and medium sized businesses throughout the building programme and beyond, says the Council.
Huxley Engineering has placed more than 30 engineers on this project so far, amongst several different companies. The roles include those on the construction side: construction managers, site managers, health and safety executives, quality certification process engineers and controls and instrumentation engineers. On the industrial services side, it includes mechanical engineers, piping engineers, health and safety roles as well as project directors.
“Sourcing candidates on the processing side is a challenge,” says Christopher Godwin, Business Manager at Huxley Engineering. “This is the technical bit; how you actually separate the waste and process it to its full potential. There are specialists in each of the new technology fields that firms have to find. These are usually chemical engineers, of which there is a general UK-wide shortage. In addition, the timescales are always tight on these projects. Plants are competing with each other, which is driving wages up, but for many candidates location is key.
“They want to be on the more groundbreaking projects, or those seen as great projects, so it’s easier to attract talent to those projects. That said, there are crossover skills from waste water, or oil and gas waste.
“Due to the ongoing oil crisis there are those with the right transferable skills, such as process engineers and certification engineers, that can come into this industry.”
With over 100 projects in the UK either operational or in the procurement or construction phase, this boom is set to continue for some time yet.
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