We are witnessing an accelerating talent transfer to renewables as the energy transition opens doors to new careers and countries for workers in traditional energy sectors. Airswift’s recent 2022 Global Energy Talent Index found 86% of energy professionals would consider relocating abroad in the next three years while more than four-in-five would consider switching to another energy sector – with renewables the most popular choice.
That is reflected in a booming renewables industry where 40% reported a pay rise in the past year and 21% joined from another sector in the last 18 months. Among them, strategic development professional Horkiz Rouzi successfully moved from a 15-year oil and gas career in Southeast Asia to join the vanguard of the United States’ accelerating transition to renewable energy.
A radical career move
Rouzi helped develop some of Asia’s premier energy projects from oil schemes in Malaysia to an innovative demand-response solution that drove 20% efficiency savings on electricity use across Southeast Asia. Her career was characterised by innovative, forward-thinking solutions including hiring former military personnel to transform the leadership of the local oil and gas industry.
Yet Rouzi had a lifelong passion for sustainability, rooted in the healthy food and lifestyle of her hometown, and yearned for a new challenge. This moved her to make the daring switch from Asia’s fossil fuel sector to the burgeoning clean energy sector in the United States.
She worked with Airswift, which specialises in seamlessly moving skilled workers across sectors, to aid her transition into renewables. The skills synergies between oil and gas and renewables helped her swiftly transition to lead development for pioneering projects from green fuels to the offshore windfarms set to power 10 million US homes by 2030.
Rouzi notes, “Engineering and leadership are the most in-demand skills in renewables and these are abundantly available across the more experienced oil and gas workforce. Other overlapping skills range from stakeholder engagement and strategy execution to soft skills, such as social and emotional intelligence.”
“This opens the door to professionals from other traditional industries like construction, offshore engineering and marine. The renewables field appeals to any innovators because it is a young, iterative industry where you must learn on the fly; for example, we are yet to sell any power from offshore wind so it will involve breaking new ground,” she says.
As a mid-career professional from a mature energy sector, Rouzi was able to bring invaluable experience to a young fast-growing sector with a major leadership deficit. Her unique experience straddling both traditional and new energy also put her in a perfect position to spot opportunities for renewables innovation. For example, her experience of booming waste-to-fuel projects at oil majors inspired her to advise a biomaterials company using grass for biobased packaging to harvest its produce for biofuel. She swiftly discovered that the executive project development skills learned in offshore oil and gas were also closely related to those needed for technologies such as offshore wind.
Coming full circle
She now harnesses her cross-industry project development experience to teach sustainable entrepreneurship to students at leading universities across Texas and even provides strategic and business development advice to the US Council for Sustainability. Rouzi ultimately aims to harness her new-found knowledge to help export green electricity and renewables skills back to Asia to support the looming energy transition there.
She explains, “Oil and gas expertise exported from regions such as Asia and the Middle East will be invaluable for supporting the energy transition across Europe and the US. And some of those who relocate for renewables jobs in the west will ultimately take their skills back home to drive the energy transition in their own countries, completing a virtuous circle of sustainable innovation.”