Invest Today in Energy and Skills to Decarbonise UK Homes

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2023 National Energy Service Group Conference
20 February 2023

Conference notes that most of the UNISON membership in the energy sector plays a part in supplying energy to UK homes. This is either in retail supply, or as part of the energy distribution and transmission systems.

In the last decade through countless reorganisations and general short-term thinking, thousands of jobs have been lost in these areas and only a small proportion of these have been replaced. This is despite the UK Government, the energy regulator Ofgem, and countless energy employers knowing full well that thousands of new jobs will be required to deliver decarbonisation plans. In fact, National Grid have estimated that some 400,000 new jobs are required across the energy sector if the UK is to get to net zero.

Conference further notes, and is disappointed, by the total lack of progress on ensuring we have a workforce that is in place to deliver net zero, and as each year passes, we are falling further behind. UNISON, in its engagement with the Government, has sought to press home the fact that on every measure around employment the genuine lack of planning is troubling, and the assumptions made are simply wrong.

Underlying all of this is a lack of investment in the energy system to ensure it can hit required targets into the future. While some easy wins have been celebrated, the hard task of decarbonising homes and the energy system suffers from short-term thinking and an absence of long-term planning. Without a change in direction the UK will simply not make the required progress towards a net zero future, and one of its biggest challenges will be the lack of a skilled workforce.

Conference therefore asks the Energy Service Group Executive, that it:

1. Works with other energy trade unions to build an effective trade union lobby to call for a significant increase in investment into the energy system.

2. Develops a plan for a stakeholder conference with a focus on what resources are needed, how these will be secured, and the need to have a proper workforce strategy underpinning this.

3. Work with Labour Link to promote a policy of widening Ofgem’s remit to include decarbonisation and future workforce investment as a key objective of its mandate.

4. Use its engagement with Ofgem to promote longer term thinking and a recognition that current workforce plans are inadequate to meet the challenges ahead.

5. Continue to work with our European colleagues within EPSU (European Public Services Union) to promote the same approach and the need for investment both now and in longer-term workforce planning, building on the skills work already undertaken.

6. Work with energy employers to develop robust workforce plans that are fit for the needs of the future.