About 10,000 new jobs could be created in north-east Scotland by the end of the decade to secure the region’s future as a global renewable and lower-carbon hub, but to fully exploit this potential will require some £17 billion ($21 billion) of investment, according to a new report.

The study by Robert Gordon University’s (RGU) Energy Transition Institute modelled several different scenarios for energy-related investment in the region that could unfold in the coming years and the implications for the workforce.

The highest level of investment ambition — in which £17 billion of new renewables and lower-carbon spending is attracted — could secure 54,000 direct and indirect jobs by 2030, up from 45,000 today.

However, reduced ambition could see up to 17,000 local jobs at risk, falling by up to 40% to 28,000 in eight years, according to the study.

The report’s lead author, Paul de Leeuw, said: “This review is an urgent call to action and highlights the size of the prize to create an exciting new energy future that will sustain and potentially grow the industry in the north-east of Scotland.

“Building on a legacy of over 50 years in oil and gas, there is a unique opportunity to reshape a new energy future here.

“This will require rapid, targeted investment in the north-east of Scotland to develop the project, manufacturing, installation, commissioning and operational infrastructure for the renewables sector.”

De Leeuw said that sustaining the oil and gas sector’s skills and capabilities over the coming years will be key to ensuring access to people for renewables energy activities from 2026 onwards.

In the most ambitious investment scenario, by 2030 around three out of five of offshore energy jobs in the region are forecast to support the renewables sector.

De Leeuw added: “The energy transition will create exciting new opportunities and industry, governments and the education sector all have a key role to play. It will require a careful balancing act.

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“The opportunity of getting this right has the potential to secure the region’s economy as a global energy hub for decades to come.

“However, if we move too slowly, there won’t be a role for everyone, and it will risk a hard-hitting economic decline for the north-east of Scotland. This must be avoided at all costs.”

The report indicates that much of the £17 billion towards regional renewables activities needs to be front-loaded as capital expenditure within the next four years to establish new large-scale manufacturing and installation capacity.

The required investment is in addition to ongoing oil and gas expenditure in the region and will need close coordination between governments and industry.

“Recognising the lead time for consenting and approving new renewables activities and the time required to establish new manufacturing facilities, it is forecast that most of the new jobs in the region will be created post-2026,” De Leuuw said.

The review assumes a so-called “goldilocks zone’” where workforce reductions in one sector are matched by increased activities in an adjacent sector.

Although the research indicates that there will be medium to high levels of transferability across many of the jobs, around 10% — about 4500 — are likely to have lower transferability and will be “disproportionately impacted” by the changes.

Scotland’s Net Zero & Energy Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Scotland’s energy sector is at the forefront of our transformation to becoming a net zero nation.

“It is a major employer and source of economic output, and our oil and gas infrastructure and highly skilled workforce have long been at the forefront of energy innovation — which is why it is well-placed to embrace the transformation that lies ahead.”

The analysis has been funded by the Scottish Government through the North-East Economic Recovery & Skills Fund.

The findings and assumptions are also aligned to the targets and ambitions set in the recent ScotWind licensing round and the UK Energy Security Strategy published in April, with targets of 50 gigawatts of installed offshore wind capacity, 10 GW of hydrogen generation and up to 30 million tonnes of annual carbon capture and storage for the UK by 2030.