A commitment to sustainable energy
Swiss Re Corporate Solutions offers large capacity and world-class technical expertise to bringing renewable energy — like offshore wind — into reality and onto the grid.
At the end of October Cyclone Christian generated sustained winds of over 140 kilometres per hour. The storm caused around USD 2 billion in damage and left hundreds of thousands of homeowners without power in France, Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Not far off their coastlines, the operators of offshore windfarms had shut down their turbines, turning the giant blades to minimise resistance until the worst had passed. Today’s windfarms generate power at windspeeds between 10 and 90 kilometres per hour. Above this speed it’s safer to take the turbine offline until the wind settles.
As the storm raged Swiss Re experts were on the phone with clients and brokers. Across the entire North Sea — where nearly two-thirds of the worldʼs supply of offshore wind power is generated — only minor damage was recorded. The turbines had performed admirably, even in the record-setting gale.
For Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, the storm enhanced our understanding of the risks to offshore wind — and thus strengthened our support for a sustainable energy future.
Swiss Re Corporate Solutions’ Ursula Barnett and Bob Pfenninger in Swiss Re offices.
A commitment to wind power
Corporate Solutions is committed to sustainable energy in general, and offshore wind in particular. Offshore wind is among the most promising sources of renewable energy. It is also an area where our large capacity and technical expertise can make a real difference in bringing renewables to reality.
From an insurance perspective, the underwriting is neither simple nor easy. “These facilities present very complex risks,” says Bob Pfenninger, Senior Engineering Underwriter at Swiss Re Corporate Solutions. “Compared to traditional lines like motor, or even marine, there is no long history to refer to.”
“But thankfully,” Bob says, “we have a lot of in-house expertise we can draw on.”
Corporate Solutions’ offshore specialists are continually updating their understanding of these facilities and sharing that knowledge with clients and other insurers.
“Swiss Re Corporate Solutions is a true partner. They ask good questions. They challenge us to take a fresh look at what we’re doing. In my line of work, that’s invaluable.”
Executive Vice President, E.ON Risk Consulting GmbH
“The more complex the risks, the more Swiss Re Corporate Solutions stands out. It becomes a source of competitive advantage for us. Clients can see we’re sweating the details with them.”
Key Account Manager, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions
For example, Swiss Re chairs the European Wind Turbine Committee’s “Offshore Code of Practice” Initiative, which is developing risk management standards for offshore windfarm project risks.
In addition, Swiss Re employees work in a knowledge-sharing culture, and they tend to stay with the company for a long time. This bolsters a strong underwriting result even in relatively new territory, like offshore wind. That expertise is noticed by clients from a range of industries. “Many of our clients take comfort in knowing that Swiss Re has evaluated and accepted their risks,” Bob adds. “It’s almost an endorsement.”
A winning partnership
OUTPUT OF MEGAWATTS
BY AMRUNBANK WEST
E.ON plans to build a new offshore windfarm every 18 months through 2015.
Corporate Solutions leverages this reputation to build deep, long-term relationships. “The more complex the risks,” says Ursula Barnett, Key Account Manager, “the more Corporate Solutions stands out. It becomes a source of competitive advantage for us. Clients can see we’re as detail-oriented as they are.”
This careful approach was a selling point for Bernd Patzwald, Executive Vice President for New Build & Risk Engineering at E.ON Risk Consulting GmbH. Bernd has been managing E.ON’s risks for more than 20 years, now largely focusing on the direct construction and operation risks of their windfarms — a challenge for a company that’s planning to commission a new windfarm every 18 months through 2015. “Swiss Re Corporate Solutions is a true partner,” says Bernd. “They ask good questions. They challenge us to take a fresh look at what we’re doing. In my line of work, that’s invaluable.”
Such close collaboration was key to securing E.ON’s business on the construction of Amrumbank West, an array of turbines scheduled to go online in 2015, when it will begin contributing 288 megawatts of energy per year. The foundations of Amrumbank West are currently being fixed into the sea floor — 24 metres below the surface, 35 kilometres from the nearest shore.
Technicians at work inside the
rotor head of a wind
turbine operated by E.ON.
And where the risks are concerned, such details are critical. “Bob asked us what arrangements we had in place for vessel availability,” Bernd recalls. “He wanted to know how we were prepared to handle a situation — even three years into the future — where we had to move people and equipment out quickly to one of our facilities. On the one hand we could prove E.ON’s sound approach to risks and on the other hand it helps us think through the risks from further angles.
It also helps my bottom line, because once Bob is satisfied, we can bring down the premium. I really appreciate the collaborative and expert approach.”
“Many of our clients take comfort in knowing that Swiss Re has evaluated and accepted their risks. It’s almost an endorsement.”
Senior Engineering Underwriter, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions
Working with major clients like E.ON allows Corporate Solutions to leverage its full capacity and expertise.
Corporate Solutions can offer solutions along the entire value chain: from construction covers to lack of wind covers, from hull marine covers for newly acquired vessels to additional capacity for hurricane-exposed onshore windfarms along the Gulf of Mexico.
The road to sustainability
There are certain to be many surprises on the road to a sustainable energy future, for operators and insurers alike. As governments shift their support from one source to another — subsidising solar one year, for example, while decommissioning nuclear the next — the economics of sustainable energy sector will continue to sway. Meanwhile operators work on long investment horizons and have to reckon with this basic uncertainty. Swiss Re Corporate Solutions is committed to staying in the sector as a partner that can help operators manage these risks to get us to a sustainable energy future.