Reliability of subsea cables paramount to energy transition success, GUH says
Failures in underwater cables could derail global offshore wind ambitions as the reliability of these cables is paramount to the success of offshore wind and the energy transition, according to the Global Underwater Hub (GUH), UK’s trade and industry development body for the underwater sectors.
GUH notes that it is estimated that around 85% of the total value of offshore wind insurance claims relates to subsea cables. This is affecting capacity and coverage and the cost of repairs typically runs into millions, with warranties rarely covering the high cost of business interruption.
This also results in insurers losing money underwriting cables with the average settlement claim of around £9 million (almost $11 million).
“If these critical components become uninsurable, offshore wind projects around the world will be derailed, making global 2050 net zero targets completely unachievable,” GUH Chief Executive Neil Gordon said.
Globally, over £620 billion of investment in offshore wind farms is anticipated by 2030 and the subsea cable sector for offshore wind has been estimated at £100 billion over the next ten years.
For the world to hit net-zero emissions by 2050, the generating capacity from offshore wind must increase by 1.120 GW, GUH reports.
Gordon stated that this scale of expansion and opportunity can only be achieved by installing and maintaining thousands of miles of reliable cables under the seabed and identifying potential weak points throughout the lifecycle of the cable is imperative to ensuring it operates robustly and efficiently to bring renewable energy ashore.
With the shift from fixed to floating offshore wind, where the dynamic nature of floating cables is even more challenging, the critical issue of their reliability must be addressed as a matter of urgency, the GUH chief emphasized.
“There is an urgent need for a holistic approach to finding solutions which can be implemented as offshore wind increases in scale and technical capability with higher voltages and dynamic elements,” Gordon said.
“We need better information sharing and a move away from a siloed approach, that is often ‘secrecy driven’ and ‘NDA heavy’. Introducing shared learning, data logging and increased transparency will create a more open environment for best practice to be developed.”
GUH has established the Subsea Cables Forum to bring industry together to develop a roadmap for improving the quality, reliability, and therefore insurability, of cables.
This will involve the development of a set of industry-led, recognized standards and best practice guidelines, encompassing the life of the cable that would be adopted by developers, suppliers, contractors, warranty surveyors and others and accepted by insurance bodies.