Fit for work in a greener economy
Europe has made big commitments on fighting climate change, but transforming our energy system into a low-carbon one is no easy task. Investments are needed on a massive scale to develop a decentralised, renewable energy system. To keep Europe's competitive edge in renewable energy technologies, we must also invest in workforce skills.
A German utility company has developed a business model already reaping the benefits of a greener economy by responding to the most significant trends transforming the energy sector worldwide: decarbonisation, decentralisation and digitalisation.
Henning Joswig worked in coal mining and is now senior manager at innogy SE. It has more than 40 000 employees in 16 countries across Europe who are not only creating and driving innovations but are also developing their own skills towards new horizons. Some of the 50 service technicians, engineers and nautical personnel working at their Nordsee Ost offshore wind farm once worked in coal- and gas-fired power stations.
“I started out as a mining engineer, working in some of the biggest open-pit coal mines in Europe,” says Henning. “Now I work in a totally different approach to power generation.”
Today, he is in innogy’s strategy and technology department where he is developing innovative future energy systems and storage applications, technologies that are required to unlock the full potential of renewable energies.
innogy: facts and figures
- It currently supplies energy to around 16 million power and 7 million gas customers in 11 European countries
- It is among the top wind operators in Europe
- It is also the largest electricity provider by volume in Germany
Bridging the green skills gap
The EU is offering practical support to help businesses and citizens through a number of programmes, including its Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. The European Social Fund is also supporting actions to upgrade workers’ skills. In Spain, for example, the ESF committed more than EUR 22 million to a Green Jobs Programme which has helped around 60 000 people acquire skills through 2000 different training courses. There has also been a special focus on helping workers in declining economic sectors to re-skill for the green jobs market.
Erasmus+, the EU’s education and training programme, is boosting activities in this area, too. For instance, the Green S&C project enhanced green skills in Southern Tuscany, Italy, to meet demand from local businesses. Young students and high-school graduates experienced learning in other countries, developing technical and professional expertise in energy efficiency, waste-cycle efficiency and ecological product development, among other green processes.