Overview of the energy and utilities sector in the UK
With the hunt for alternative sources of power balanced by environmental and economic concerns, the energy and utilities sector is currently enjoying significant growth
What areas of energy and utilities can I work in?
You could work in numerous areas, including:
- electricity and gas;
- extraction and mining;
- renewable energy;
- sewage services;
- waste management;
Within these industries, there are many job roles available to graduates, in functions including:
- human resources (HR);
- information technology (IT);
- marketing and public relations (PR);
- operational management;
- project management;
- research and development (R&D);
For examples of job roles in this sector, see graduate jobs in energy and utilities.
Who are the main graduate employers?
Many of the largest companies in this sector operate in the UK. Examples include:
- Amec Foster Wheeler;
- Balfour Beatty;
Energy companies supplying the UK include:
- EDF Energy;
- National Grid;
- RWE npower;
- United Utilities.
Water companies supplying the UK include:
- Thames Water;
- United Utilities;
- Veolia Water.
Waste management and recycling companies servicing the UK include:
- FCC Environment;
Many organisations in the UK are currently operating in renewable technologies; for example, more than 500 companies engage in wind and marine energy alone. For a list of organisations involved in wind, wave and tidal energy, visit Renewable UK.
You can find public sector job opportunities with local authorities and central government departments such as the Environment Agency. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), meanwhile, provide a range of specialist services, such as environmental or engineering consultancy.
What's it like working in the sector?
Graduates entering the energy and utilities sector can expect:
- high starting salaries, with companies paying entry-level graduates an average of £32,500 (The Graduate Market in 2015, High Fliers);
- varied work environments, including offices, laboratories, or offshore locations;
- opportunities to work worldwide, especially in the extraction, nuclear and exploration industries.
What are the key issues in the energy and utilities sector?
This is a competitive sector to enter. According to The Graduate Market in 2015 (High Fliers), there were 21% fewer graduate vacancies available at leading oil and energy in 2014 companies compared to 2013 – despite graduate applications rising.
However, experts predict an increase in available jobs across several key sectors and, according to EU Skills research, the UK's energy and utility workforce will need to increase by more than 200,000 people by 2023. There's a particularly strong demand for engineers and scientists; according to Think Power, the UK must recruit 50,000 engineers by 2034 to secure future power supplies.
Meanwhile, there are currently more than 60,000 people employed in the nuclear power industry - and this number is growing. The government has decided that nuclear power should be part of the UK's low-carbon energy mix, as we move away from burning fossil fuels. Nuclear power currently contributes around 18% of the UK's electricity.
Furthermore, there's a need to build new power stations and decommission those that are coming to the end of their life. Research shows that these construction plans will require the recruitment of around 1,000 people each year, with many at graduate level (Cogent).
There'll also be an increase in renewable power jobs. The government is targeting renewable sources such as wind, solar and tidal energy to provide 15% of our power by 2020. To meet European Union (EU) targets, the UK must build 7,500 offshore turbines in the next three or four years (Think Power).
Jobs for engineers and technologists are also being created due to investment in the UK's electricity network. Another potential energy stream, fracking, could provide up to 5,600 jobs; but this is a controversial process because of the release of greenhouse gas emissions (Energy UK).