A remarkable growth is forecasted for the offshore wind industry in Asia Pacific. The challenge, says Edgare Kerkwijk, is to find home-grown senior-level expertise to support it.
So far, the rise and rise of the offshore wind sector has largely been a European phenomenon — one that shows no sign of slowing down. Statistics from industry body Wind Europe reveal that offshore wind now represents 2% of all the electricity consumed across the continent. This is a number that will continue to rise.
Yet, very soon, Europe is going to have some big competition, because the offshore wind sector in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region is also growing at a remarkable rate. According to consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie, Asia-Pacific's offshore wind capacity will rise 20-fold to 45GW in 2027. China is leading the way, planning to rocket its capacity from 2GW in 2018 to an incredible 31GW in the next 10 years; but Taiwan is hot on its heels, and should account for 20% — or 8.7GW — of the region’s offshore wind capacity by 2027. Japan's offshore potential is also set to grow post 2020, while new markets such as South Korea, Australia, India, Thailand and Vietnam will start within five years.
Crucial skills needed
All this renewables activity is good news for the environment, notes Singapore-based board member of the Asia Wind Energy Association, Edgare Kerkwijk. Yet it poses a significant challenge for companies involved in the region's offshore wind industry, simply because it's growing so quickly. One result of this rapid rise is a serious manpower shortage in the sector, including at senior levels.
“What Europe has achieved in offshore wind in the last 20-plus years, APAC aims to do the same in less than 10 years,” says Edgare. “Such growth has to be supported by resources, highly trained labour and executive expertise. That's critical. The problem is, Asia-Pacific doesn't have a home-grown offshore wind sector, so it lacks those kinds of crucial skills.”
Which is why, in this vital set-up phase, companies in the offshore sector have been exporting their European-based experts and executives to the Asia-Pacific region. However, says Edgare, this can only be a temporary solution. “Europe will need them back because its own offshore wind sector is still continuing to grow,” he insists. “What we have to do is develop our own executive expertise in Asia-Pacific, recruiting and training senior-level people here.”
High level of expertise
To that end, Edgare has joined forces with Atlas Professionals, a specialist in recruitment and HR services to the global energy, marine and renewables industries. It has particular experience in offshore wind recruitment, supplying professionals for nearly all of the wind farms built in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark since 2008.
Supported by Atlas — and with an eye on growing his team — Edgare's remit will be to find executives for permanent roles in the Asia-Pacific offshore wind industry. “Atlas has an excellent and proven track record in offshore wind recruitment,” he says. “No other recruiter in Asia-Pacific has the same level of expertise in this growth area. What's more, the company has a significant presence in the region with an office in Singapore — a place which has developed into something of an offshore wind hub and a joint-venture office in Perth. Atlas has been finding contract professionals for the sector in APAC for years; so executive search will be a welcome addition to the recruitment services it already provides.”
Naturally, Edgare doesn't pretend that APAC's offshore wind ambitions will be easy to realise. “Some countries are developing offshore wind industries from nothing,” he says. “They lack proper infrastructure and have limited vessel availability in some cases. So, plainly, a lot of work needs to be done. But the fact is that offshore is the future for this region, because it won't negatively impact its densely populated communities and agricultural areas — unlike onshore solar or wind power projects.
“Ultimately, Asia-Pacific is set to become the largest offshore wind market in the world and is where the real growth is. In recruitment terms, we have to be ready to supply this exciting market of tomorrow with the skills it needs.”