Environment and energy – Fast growing sectors

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By Laurence Le Coq, Lecturer and researcher, and head of the department of Energy systems and environment at the Ecole des Mines de Nantes.

Energy and the environment have never been more interconnected .The industries linked to energy and environment incorporate the green-tech industries (waste management and processing / waste upcycling, pollution treatment, energy generation and distribution, water management), but also other industial sectors which are high polluting or high energy consumption industries (greening sectors  : construction, transport, development of regulations…) ; as well as service and advisory bodies related to energy and environment.

More and more students are being drawn to training in these areas, at either engineering degree or masters level, as a result of the great variety of careers available, and the increase in employment over the last ten years.

According to the reference guide for the environment sector (published by APEC, an executive employment association), in the case of green-tech industries « above all, companies are looking for professionals in pollution prevention, nuisance control, and risk management. The sectors providing the most employment opportunities are in fact those of waste collection (33 % of employment in the environmental sector), water treatment (23 %) and renewable energy (12 %) »


According to the report published by the MEEDDM (MEEDDM/CGDD -Ministry of Ecology, Environment and Sustainable Development, Strategic industrial sectors in the green economy, March 2010), the environmental section is undergoing great change. In fact, following the Grenelle environment commitments in 2007, «French economic policy experienced a major breakthrough, it was as though the restrictions which had previously been a burden on the economy, became a great opportunity for investment in the protection of the environment, generating growth and employment. On a global scale, the economic and financial crisis acted as a revealing indicator and recovery plans were put into  place which focussed on the following sectors » :

- sectors involved in the reduction of air pollution emmissions, particularly greenhouse gases as part of the fight against climatic change, through production energy optimisation and waste management, and through the development of lower carbon footprint energy sources (non-carbon energy and upcycling),

- sectors involved in reducing the consumption of natural resources and the production of waste, through downcycling and upcycling, as well as water treatment.


Most of these developments result from a change in employment prospects, noticeable in the courses chosen and the qualifications obtained by the trainee engineers at the Ecole des Mines de Nantes. It is interesting to notice the following :

- Industrial facilities which need to optimise their processing concerning pollutant emmissions, the generation of residues and energy consumption, constitute an important source of employment.

- The issue of water resources remains a problem and the needs of green-tech industries are ever present. However there is a movement towards better water resource management, optimisation of water distribution and use, energy optimisation in the water sector, the concept  of a water footprint is being adopted.

- Waste management, upcycling, the optimisation of waste collection and recycling sectors  are becoming leading, fast growing activities. Logistic tools, decision-making tools, and financial incentives are rapidly developing in this sector.

- Environmental impact assessments of contaminated sites and soil, as well as rehabilitation techniques are booming due to the need for land use planning and streamlining of urban sprawl.

- Renewable energy, for which there is great potential in France and the world, is a rapidly growing sector.

- Energy production and distribution facilities are seeing developments in their profession take into account « the constraints and markets » (CO2 limits, electricity prices, pollution tax, social acceptability, energy mix and smart grids…).

- Finally, the design and rehabilitation of habitats and the rationalisation of territories to improve water and energy management are new job sectors.

The engineering training courses at the Ecole des Mines de Nantes, at degree and master's level, have been developed in recognition of the increasing demand in these new job sectors (majors GE- Environmental Engineering , GSE-Energy systems engineering, and master's PM3E-Project management for environmental and energy engineering ). These courses prepare the students to  deal with environmental problems and issues directly related to our societies, and provide them with the necessary scientific and technical and skills, as well as project management skills, in both a national and international context.


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