Confidence across the industry is high, with businesses planning to make combined investments of £600m over the next five years. The industry has also earmarked £106m of investment into bioLPG, which is made from 100% renewable sources and emits up to 90% fewer emissions than LPG, helping to kick-start the industry's vision to reach 100% bioLPG by 2040.
Overall, the LPG industry directly employs at least 3,500 people in the UK and has an annual turnover of over £1billion, with almost three quarters (74%) indicating growth in sales over last 12 months. In that time, £115m has been collectively invested by industry. For gas suppliers, the sectors of significant growth over the 12 months to May 2020 were domestic heating (68% of respondents), leisure and recreation (50%) and hospitality and street food (27%). With confidence of growth and ambitions to invest, the industry is still faced with some key concerns. Almost three quarters (74%) of respondents highlighted a severe skills shortage. Technical roles such as engineers, LPG installers and plumbers are those that were most frequently highlighted as facing serious skills shortages, with two thirds (66%) of respondents reporting difficulties in recruiting qualified engineers.
The census also revealed that the large parts of the LPG sector are suffering from an ageing workforce, with a lack of apprentices and graduates who bring new talent to the industry. Almost two thirds (63%) of the LPG workforce is aged 40 or over and 27% of the whole energy workforce is expected to retire within the next decade. Currently, just over 1% of the LPG workforce and 5% of the energy and utilities sector is made up of apprentices. Similarly, in 2017 just 0.4% of graduates entered the energy and utilities sector, a figure that rose only slightly to 1% when considering those individuals graduating from STEM subjects.
George Webb, chief executive, Liquid Gas UK commented: “It’s great to see that in a time of an unprecedented economic difficulty, the LPG industry is bucking the trend. The census proves we have the appetite for growth and the ability to deliver, with the industry building up its workforce, improving its infrastructure, making huge investments and expanding into new, as well as existing, markets. We have a £1bn industry and plans for £600m in investment in the years ahead. Proportionally, that level of committed investment is massive.
“It also shows that investors clearly see the opportunity for LPG to play a bigger role in heating off-grid buildings as the decarbonisation agenda progresses – with it producing 33% fewer carbon emissions than coal and 15-20% fewer carbon emissions than oil. Meanwhile bioLPG is available now and the industry is committed to reach 100% bioLPG by 2040. In bioLPG alone, we are seeing projected investment of over £100m for the next year.
“We are approaching a critical time when important decisions need to be taken by Government about the UK’s trajectory to Net Zero. I hope that the UK Government sees us an industry that can deliver Net Zero as part of a mixed technology approach to heat decarbonisation and is willing to put its money where its mouth is.
“With young people set to face record unemployment due to COVID-19 it is imperative that the LPG industry plays its part in helping to solve this unemployment crisis. While the Government is working hard at the moment to keep people in employment and re-skill, it is important to explore some of the blockages that appear to be hindering the industry’s ability to develop the next generation, such as training courses that lack a specialist focus on off-grid.”