A skilled workforce crunch is the biggest single threat to the UK’s huge offshore wind ambitions, according to a new index of confidence in the sector.

Recruitment and retention is cited as the top challenge to growth in the first Offshore Wind Supply Chain Confidence Survey carried out by the UK government-backed Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult.

“The requirement for specific technical expertise and experience, combined with the rapid growth of the renewables industry, is resulting in extremely high demand for key skilled workers, meaning firms face significant challenges in recruiting for such capabilities,” said ORE Catapult, which polled almost 300 UK companies spanning renewables, the wider power sector, oil & gas and other industries such as aerospace and chemicals.

Britain’s oil & gas sector is experiencing a similar recruitment challenge of its own, according to firms from that industry taking part in the survey, a result that ORE Catapult said could undermine previous expectations that fossil industry workers with transferable skills will move across to green industries to meet growing demand for people there – the so-called ‘just transition’.

“Whilst a just transition from one to the other is possible in the longer term, it may prove more challenging in the short to medium term,” said the report, noting that both offshore wind and oil & gas had faced additional challenges caused by Britain’s exit from the EU.

Market visibility was also named as a potential obstacle for those seeking opportunities in the UK offshore wind supply chain, as the industry sets out to hit 50GW of installed capacity by 2030, up from about 13.6GW now, and advance future projects via leasing rounds such as the giant ScotWind process.

ORE Catapult said the survey as a whole reflected an “optimistic outlook” with 63% of respondents across all sectors saying they had become more confident of growth over the last year.

ORE Catapult chief executive Andrew Jamieson, said: “Innovation throughout our supply chain has been the single biggest driver to date behind the UK’s phenomenal success in delivering affordable, clean energy from offshore wind.

“The buoyancy of the UK’s supply chain revealed by our survey, despite the current economic challenges, is hugely encouraging and provides a high degree of confidence that we will continue to see tremendous economic and job growth from technology and process innovation in offshore wind.”