Renewable Energy Needs To Learn Safety Lessons From Oil and Gas

One expert says there needs to be a transfer of safety culture from the traditional energy industry to the newer offshoot of renewables.

Source: Canadian Occupational Safety

As the world moves toward renewable energy sources, there also needs to be a transfer of safety culture from the traditional energy industry to this newer offshoot, according to Laurence Pearlman, president of Safety And Consulting Associates.

“I think oil and gas is seen as old and in decline and renewables is sexy and on the increase, and, when you're in that mode, it's like, let's go forward with what’s sexy and new and I'm going to leave the old declining industry behind, and there's nothing I can learn from that,” Pearlman said.

He gave a presentation at the Energy Safety Conference in Banff, Alberta, about safety and renewable energy. Pearlman told a room full of energy safety professionals the attitude among operators in the renewables sector needs to change.

The BP Energy Outlook 2022 report shows that, by 2050, only about 20% of the world’s energy sources will come from fossil fuels. The other 80% will be comprised of solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and perhaps even hydrogen.

With the future looking greener, Pearlman says, operators in the renewables sector need to put less emphasis on producing kilowatt hours and focus more on safety. He says many operators in the renewables sector “put generation ahead of safety” and adds that this relatively newer industry is where oil and gas was 50 years ago.

“I think, if we look at oil and gas, we're just very mature on the conversations, the depth of knowledge, and the understanding that you can't have one without the other. You have to have safety; you have to have operations,” said Pearlman, who suggests that, in the renewables sector, “that's tilted wrong right now.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Pearlman says renewables can learn from the traditional energy industry and points to companies that are adopting safety practices from oil and gas as having strong safety records. He says all the operators in the solar power space that have total recordable injury rates of less than 1.0 have one thing in common; they’re owned by utility and oil companies.

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