As countries around the world continue to take action to tackle the climate emergency, there is much debate about ensuring a just transition, including for the thousands of highly skilled workers currently employed in fossil fuel based sectors.
In Scotland, this is particularly true for its oil and gas industry, with a lot of focus on how workers can transition to the renewables sector, particularly offshore wind where there are clear engineering and operational synergies.
What is less spoken about is the opportunities the electricity transmission industry can play in ensuring a just transition to net zero for oil and gas workers, building the motorways of the electricity industry, onshore and subsea, to connect and transport the renewable electricity required to meet Government net zero emissions targets.
One person who recently made the jump, or perhaps more aptly the ‘plunge’ from oil and gas to electricity transmission, is SSEN Transmission’s Kenny Nicolson, Lead Project Manager responsible for the development of several exciting subsea cable projects.
Kenny recently shared his experience on the transition from oil and gas to electricity transmission, synergies between the two sectors, where transmission can learn from oil and gas, and what advice he has for others considering the shift in career.
“After enjoying nearly a decade working in the oil and gas sector, the increasing boom and bust nature of work coupled with the global fight to tackle the climate emergency pushed me to look elsewhere. I came across and an opportunity on LinkedIn to join the team responsible for the development of the Eastern Link HVDC in the Offshore Direcorate at SSEN Transmission which caught my eye.
“I didn’t know much about the SSEN Transmission beforehand but was really impressed by what I learned on its social media platforms and its clear focus on delivering net zero. With a strong pipeline of future works to support delivery of Government targets, I decided to apply and haven’t looked back since.
“In my time in the oil and gas industry, I was involved in the delivery of new infrastructure, field extension works, including installation of new infrastructure, particularly subsea oil and gas pipelines and umbilicals. This experience has really helped me in my new role, taking lessons from the delivery of subsea infrastructure and implementing that learning in the development phase, helping identify and mitigate potential engineering risks and challenges at an early stage.
“In my role, I’m responsible for the development of the subsea element of the Eastern HVDC link from Peterhead to Selby, which at over 400km, is expected to be one of the longest HVDC cables in the world there are no subsea cable vessels in the world capable of installing that length of cable in one go! So, we’re working hard with our industry partners, National Grid Electricity Transmission, to mitigate the challenges this presents.
“I’m also responsible for our other subsea cable connections, including proposals to connect the Western Isles. Having hailed from the Isle of Lewis in the Western Isles, I know first-hand the vast renewable resources of Scotland’s island groups and have a clear vested interest in helping progress these links, unlocking the transformational impacts they would have on local economies not to mention contribution to net zero targets.
“When I compare the two sectors there’s a huge amount of transferable skills and synergies, from the obvious engineering focus and challenges with operating in the North sea, to the engagement with supply chain manufacturers and delivery partners.
“The synergies also extend to some of the challenges faced, particularly operating in difficult conditions offshore and the interface with other marine users, including coordinating our developments with other sectors where there may be an interface or crossing of their existing and future infrastructure.
“One of the biggest learnings I think the transmission industry and Government can take from oil and gas is the establishment of a local supply chain for the manufacture of key transmission components. This is something the renewables industry has done to great effect in recent years and there are clearly opportunities to maximise the economic benefits associated with network development if we can create the right conditions and provide the necessary certainty to attract inward investment, creating skilled careers throughout the supply chain.
“And what would my advice me to anyone else looking at moving careers? The climate emergency has conversely presented new economic and personal development opportunities and there’s a huge amount of talent in the oil and gas sector with the transferable skills to help us deliver a network for net zero.”
If you are interested in a career with SSEN Transmission or its parent company, SSE, please visit SSE’s career page: https://careers.sse.com/homepage and follow SSEN Transmission on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/ssen-transmission or visit Eastern HVDC Link project page ssen-transmission.co.uk/projects/eastern-hvdc-link/