Germany leads UK in offshore orders

GERMANY: German bullishness in the offshore sector and uncertainty about UK energy policy are behind a surge in subsea cable orders from German projects. These now account for 76% of offshore orders, according to Aberdeen-based technology and consultancy services company Enventi.

Enventi's research showed that out of 2,400 kilometres of offshore cables currently on order in the offshore wind industry, only 13% or 300 kilometres relate to planned UK offshore developments. German projects amount to 2,000 kilometres. The firm suggests this shows the UK government's Energy Market Reform (EMR) is creating uncertainty and a delay between projects currently under construction and the next phase of projects consented but where work is yet to start.

Enventi general manager Scott Macknocher said he suspected that similar patterns are probably occurring across the offshore supply chain.

"Despite what the UK government has said about transitional measures protecting investment, it appears that uncertainty arising from EMR is preventing consented projects achieving financial close and proceeding to construction," he said. "Now is the time for the offshore supply chain to be developed but this is not happening."

Enventi's research claims that in a tight supply chain this hiatus in the UK will be crucial in the race to install the next phase of offshore wind farms in the North Sea. "Germany is well advanced in the installation of an integrated high-voltage direct-current network that will allow clusters of offshore wind farms to be developed," said Macknocher.

"It is likely this groundwork will enable Germany to surpass the UK as the world's leader in installed offshore wind capacity sometime between 2015 and 2020," he added.

UK delays

Commenting on the procurement of subsea cables, industry association Renewable UK said that it was not a surprise that German projects dominate the current order book, given that German projects are further offshore than their UK counterparts and hence require longer cables. However, the lack of recent consents for UK projects, with only the Humber Gateway project being approved in the last three years, is an industry concern.

A Renewable UK spokesman added that the association had urged the British Government to progress the existing Round 2 applications - up to 7.2GW of offshore projects - as soon as possible, so as to maintain the momentum of the UK as the leading offshore wind-energy market.

In terms of alternating-current cables, the UK has around 20% of cables on order, compared with Germany's 60%, still the largest in Europe. After the UK come smaller orders for Belgian and Dutch projects.

For the cables of the type that connects turbines within a wind farm, seven German projects currently have cables on order, compared with one project in UK waters.

Commenting on the cables supply chain situation at an Ernst & Young briefing in London last month, Ed Wilson, head of renewable energy at Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets, said: "Over the next five years the offshore supply chain should be ramping up to accommodate growth forecasts ... The UK and German markets are already starting to run hot. The more viable Round 3 offshore projects will come first in the queue and rationing of the supply chain could follow if bottlenecks continue to exist."

He added there were concerns that the nature of the German offshore structure could tempt developers away from the UK.

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