Article - Greenbyte

March 2, 2021 — Industry Trends

Does doubling your portfolio capacity mean doubling your headcount?

We know how digital asset management platforms can improve profitability at your wind and solar farms – but they can also help you boost retention and manage with smaller teams in a looming era of renewables skills shortages.

Matthew Lush
Sales Manager, Greenbyte

How can you grow your business if you can’t find the people you need?

That is the question that wind and solar operators need to ask themselves following the latest research on the global renewable energy workforce, which was published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in September.

The study showed that total jobs in renewables globally – which covered wind, solar, bioenergy and hydro, grew from 10million to 11.5million between 2015 and 2019.

Most of that growth was in solar PV, where jobs grew from 2.8million to 3.8million in those five years. Wind rose from 1.1million to 1.2million too. On the face of it, that is positive. It shows there are more people helping to drive the energy transition.

But that masks a looming skills shortage. IRENA warns that this may not be growing quickly enough and may result in skills gaps that slow the rate of the green recovery. It specifically highlights a “chronic shortage” of renewables professionals in teaching positions that could end up as a “major barrier to the deployment of renewables”.

Owners and operators already know how tough it is to get the right people in place to manage and maintain their wind and solar assets. The IRENA data suggests this will get even harder over the next five years as the energy transition picks up pace. This will force companies to find ways to give more support to their current workforce.

This is an area where better software can help.

Workforce optimization

Now I know we all hear a lot about how software and data can help you optimize the performance of your existing assets. And, contrary to what some people in the sector may have you believe, we are very clear on how this helps you increase your profits.

However, what we hear less about is how you can use asset management software to get more out of your existing workforce. It is a subject we have looked at in some of our customer stories over the last year: Mashav, Skyline and Terre et Lac have all shared experiences of using the Greenbyte Platform to manage growing portfolios.

But the topic of ‘workforce optimization’ is little discussed in the wider industry. That might be because the phrase itself feels cold and impersonal – people aren’t robots! – but it leaves firms ill-prepared to deal with the workforce challenges they face.

Here are three of these challenges.

The first is contained in the IRENA data. If the number of skilled professionals in the renewables industry isn’t growing quickly enough to meet demand, this will put firms under pressure to manage larger portfolios with the people they already employ. Companies need to grow total managed capacity faster than they grow headcount.

The second is that any skills gaps will make it harder to retain existing staff. We will see experienced professionals drawn away to faster-growing rivals that offer a more stimulating environment. Firms need to find ways to reduce employees’ frustration.

And the third is that it will be harder to attract new people too, whether they are data experts, technicians, or anyone in between. Firms will need to be a stimulating place to work and give people the most influence they can over the energy transition.

These are all areas where a digital asset management platform can help.

By automating parts of the operations and maintenance process, you free up your people to do the part of the job where they can add most value: making decisions on how best to manage assets. They won’t be putting together long Excel documents!

You can also help to reduce frustration for your current employees. We often hear from operators who have lost talented people because they didn’t invest in the tools that would enable them to do the job optimally. In a market with skills shortages, the need to hang onto your best people will be more important than ever.

Finally, by demonstrating that you invest in the right software, then you will enhance your reputation as a stimulating environment that gives staff the right technology that they need to make a positive impact on the planet. That is a competitive edge, above and beyond the boost that these systems have on profits at your projects.

If this chimes with any issues you’re experiencing, please get in touch.

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