Careers in the Energy Sector: What Does the Future Hold?
Developments in the energy industry are creating exciting job opportunities in professions ranging from law to public relations
By Dr Steve Priddy
There has been a seismic shift in the energy sector ever since 2008, when oil prices spiked. But before you can look at the careers that could develop from this, you need to understand the current state of the sector.
A revolution in shale gas will transform the United States into a major gas exporter by 2020. The impact on oil-centred economies, such as in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, will be profound. China now produces as much oil as America’s largest international corporations. Resource plays for oil and gas are also opening up in emerging economies on a scale not witnessed before, and in the most fragile of the world’s ecosystems, such as the shallow waters of the Caspian Sea.
While carbon markets in the EU have collapsed, new emission trading schemes will expand in other areas, such as Japan, China and California. In the UK, the government has introduced a controversial base price for carbon dioxide emissions, which is set to increase in annual increments to £30 per tonne by 2020. Research from Carbon Tracker, an organisation that supports the financial markets to tackle climate change, has shown that we can’t burn all the carbon currently on the books of the major oil, gas and extraction corporations without adverse climatic consequences.
Infrastructure funding is also needed to support a global population moving towards 10 billion by the end of the century. But increasing regulation aimed at the banking sector will inevitably lead to significant increases in the cost of borrowing, and quantitative easing must come to an end eventually.
These factors combine to create disruptive opportunities for those seeking careers in and around the industry. Among these, here are some of the most exciting:
Law and Accounting
The private and public sectors need to build capacity around the developments mentioned above. This presents career opportunities in law, investigative or “forensic” accounting where you drill into the detail around the numbers and audit. For example, in Mongolia – one of the fastest growing economies in the world with immense natural resources yet to be exploited – there are only a handful of internationally-qualified accountants. Yet the new flows of wealth that will occur demand transparency of markets if benefits are to be fairly shared.
It may be difficult to find petroleum taxation an exciting opportunity, but it is. Tax practitioners will be in demand as individual states and international oil corporations look to design fairness and proportionality into taxes on new energy resources. This could take you all over the world, from Norway to Nigeria. Issues around the neutrality of the tax process – and the need to tax according to life cycle revenues and expenditures – will create complex and challenging opportunities for those working in the sector.
As activity develops in remote locations with fragile ecosystems, the need for environmental scientists and economists will exacerbate the chronic shortages of engineers already being experienced in the industry. Experts in environmental assurance, for example, will be in greater demand in the public and private sectors.
In general, the renewables sector offers many opportunities for youthful, entrepreneurial thinking from the heavy engineering at London Array – the largest offshore wind farm in the world – to redesigning the humble washing machine or the energy-saving Dyson hand dryer. Industrial design and designers will enter a golden age of opportunity.
Project financiers also will be in demand, both from the private and public sectors. They will need to learn from the past experiences and mistakes of public-private partnerships to develop innovative, fair and cost-effective funding models. In particular, there will be demand for individuals who can design, build and test finance models that can calculate profit and cashflow throughout the lifecycle of a resource, from exploration through to decommissioning. They will also need to ensure this can be understood across the public and private sectors.
Peer-to-peer lending will grow as funding from traditional banking institutions becomes prohibitively expensive. These organisations link businesses looking for funding with potential investors. In the UK the largest are Zopa, RateSetter and Funding Circle, but they will rapidly grow and create opportunities for regulators, assurers, and providers of due diligence.
Research from Shell has also suggested that there could be a remarkable increase of solar energy as governments with the right climate seek to exploit this opportunity. Already the solar industry in the UK is growing rapidly, albeit from a low baseline. And this is an industry effectively starting from scratch, requiring a wide range of skills from the entrepreneurial through to business development and marketing.
And for those seeking a career in public relations, the exploitation and refining activities of the oil and gas industry offer tremendous opportunities to effectively communicate the challenges and imperatives of the current situation. Whether that’s corporate social responsibility, corporate governance and ethics or working internationally, the opportunities are endless.
Finally, teaching – particularly in higher education and in emerging economies – will become a priority for many governments wishing to develop their education capacity, as their revenues from oil and gas activities materialise.
Exciting times indeed.
Dr Steve Priddy is Head of Research at LSBF
For those keen on a career in the energy sector, we offer an advanced certificate programme in ‘Global Oil & Gas Industry: Strategy, Management & Consultancy‘, as well as a variety of Advanced Certificate in Contemporary Issues in Oil, Gas, and Energy.
A version of this articles has also been published by The Guardian