EuropeOn General Secretary and members meet with members of the European Parliament to discuss the “Fit for 55” legislative package

Determined to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent before 2030, the European Commission released in July 2021 a set of legislations coined as the “Fit for 55 package”, that aims to provide all the necessary tools to achieve this first step before making of the EU the first climate neutral continent by 2050.

It is now the turn of members of the European Parliament, along with the Council of Member States, to analyse and amend the proposed package, before voting on it. In this phase of analysis, decision-makers are open to collect feedback from stakeholders involved in the green and digital transition, such as electrical contractors’ representatives.

Electrical contractors have the responsibility of implementing the twin transitions by installing and maintaining all types of electrical installations in buildings and infrastructures, including solar panels and electric vehicles’ charging infrastructure. They also advise end-users on the best available clean energy technologies and they provide tailored solutions to monitor and manage energy consumption.

This is why EuropeOn engaged with the EU Parliament rapporteurs for the Energy efficiency and Renewable energy directives in the past few months. In January, EuropeOn General Secretary, Julie Beaufils, as well as the General Directors of our two French associations, Anne Valachs (for SERCE) and Philippe Rifaux (for FFIE) met with the French rapporteur for the Renewable energy directive, Christophe Grudler.

EuropeOn and its members expressed their overall satisfaction with the Commission’s proposal, as it could trigger an acceleration of the deployment of renewable energy, incentivise energy renovations, foster electro-mobility and improve energy data access. However, for these ambitions to be met, one preoccupation needs to be addressed: the lack of available and skilled professionals to do the work.

This observation surprised MEP Christophe Grudler, who rightly highlighted that jobs in the green and digital transition offer many positive arguments to appeal to candidates. EuropeOn representatives agreed with this comment but pointed out that this is mostly true for university-level careers. Indeed, careers in the electrical contracting sector usually start with a technical background which still suffers from a poor image in many European countries. As EuropeOn General Secretary recently said in an interview for Foresight: “Technical education and careers are too often viewed as an option of last resort. We are striving to challenge this cliché and highlight that technical careers are changing really fast and should appeal to new generations because they are promoting a sustainable way of life“.

However, this change of mindset will not happen just thanks to creative media campaigns from the sector : there is a need for Member States, who are in charge of defining education and trainings, to make a priority of promoting and incentivising technical careers in the areas related to the green and digital transition. And this priority cannot wait: electrical contractors already report vacancies all across Europe. If they can boast of the absence of unemployment in their branch, it actually hides the fact that the demand (for their services) is higher that what they can deliver at the moment. And this trend will become even more worrying when Europe will have higher climate and energy targets.

How can the EU help? Anne Valachs and Philippe Rifaux presented to MEP Christophe Grudler a recent study conducted by the French Ministry of Employment, in cooperation with their associations and other stakeholders. This study aims at acquiring a better understanding of the jobs behind the “electricity branch” and assesses the gap between available and needed workforce in the years to come. EuropeOn suggests that the EU requires from Member States to produce similar assessments all across Europe, so that governments have a clear vision of the vacancies and can act accordingly.

MEP Christophe Grudler welcomed EuropeOn’s comments and agreed that skills and jobs considerations should be better dealt with in the Renewable Energy Directive, as it could become a bottleneck to the green and digital transition. He also pointed at funding such as the brand-new Just Transition Fund, that supports workers wishing to re-skill from an “obsolete” sector to a future-proof one.

The Parliament will release a first draft report in the coming weeks. The date for the vote in plenary session is not yet confirmed but other files of the Fit for 55 Package are expected to be on the agenda for July and it would be consistent for the Renewable Energy Directive to be voted in the same period.

Regarding the Energy efficiency directive, EuropeOn also met with lead rapporteur Niels Fuglsang (Denmark) a few months ago and will engage with co-rapporteur Pernille Weiss (Denmark) in a few days.

You can have a look at EuropeOn’s positions paper on both Directives HERE.