Going with the wind

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Going like the wind
Steve Byrne
Senior Vice President Pipelines

In America, states once driven primarily by fossil fuels are seeing the huge benefits of a diversified energy portfolio, particularly against the backdrop of Covid-19 and evolving policy changes. The pandemic prompted not only a major downturn in the oil and gas industry, but a put a microscope on the energy transition. Heavily voiced by the oil and gas majors, we’re seeing the effects of their repositioning play out in real-time.

While leading a pipeline construction business historically centered on the U.S. shale market, I have never been more acutely aware of the need to diversifying our energy portfolios beyond oil and gas. We are pivoting our approach and thinking differently to ensure we deliver project resilience for our clients and their evolving needs, but equally, we’ve also had to look at our people resilience.

The energy and skills transitions go hand in hand; even without the issues spurred on by Covid-19, the world’s demand and enthusiasm for hydrocarbons is declining, and ultimately, this will impact the workforce.   We are seeing a shift happening in oil-boom states such as North Dakota, where energy jobs do not necessarily mean your work in the fossil fuel industry anymore.

In an article with Prairie Business, Jeff Danielson, central region director for the American Wind Energy Association said that the Midwestern states are poised for continued renewables growth, meaning more jobs. He went on to explain that a wind technician is the second fastest energy growing job in the United States, the first being a solar installer: “It’s really clear that clean energy is fueling new job growth in the United States. If you look where it's occurring, it's even more important for states like Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa.”

This notion of job growth is backed up by the Harvard Political Review which cited a recent E2 report outlining that almost 3.3 million Americans work in clean energy, outnumbering fossil fuel workers 3-to-1.

And it’s certainly a focus at Wood where we want to build a more equitable and powerful workforce.

For example, the skills and operational equipment needed to dig trenches and lay, terminate, and commission pipelines is directly transferable to the electrical work scopes for wind and solar farms. Instead of powering plants, we’re powering turbines. The difference primarily is scale, as the distance between the turbines is much greater, but technically the projects are the same.

I see our people wanting to learn and take advantage of a brand-new era of energy. And while we’re actively offering these opportunities to teams based in the Permian basin for example, we are also making sure that we work with local labor in the communities where we are active too.  Our people will make it possible! This is something you can witness firsthand in our interactive wind story featuring our people who are bringing wind farms to life across the U.S.

And it’s not just our site-based technical teams. Those who possess the necessary problem solving and skills to support procurement, project scheduling, community relations, and control scopes can apply those same aptitudes to partner with any sector.

The energy transition is no doubt a pathway for a technical transition. As the cost to install and operate wind and solar projects continues to become more affordable at scale, the economic and environmental gains – whether that be property, state and local taxes or landowner revenue, as well it positively impacting industrial and policy decarbonization goals – all this effort from a growing renewables sector will equate to more jobs.

It’s not just business that feels the boom and bust of fossil fuels, at the end of the day it’s people.  Wood continues to partner with clients to unlock solutions that strengthen the diversity of their energy portfolios, all the while we are also committed to a skills transition that will create a more sustainable workforce that continues to evolve to industry demand, which is enabling the energy transition and creating new possibilities.

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