Tennet claims German offshore financing 'secure'

GERMANY: The €7 billion financing of transmission cables to shore for Germany's first eight offshore wind clusters is "secure," according to Tennet Offshore board member Wilfried Breuer.

Concerns as to Tennet's financial position – given the scale of network expansions required in Germany – seem to be diminishing. Breuer stressed that thanks to the new legal arrangements on risk liability for the offshore transmission cable sector, he was "confident [of getting] a market solution."

But he declined to give further details about the cable financing, including on whether institutions like German support bank KfW will become involved.

Mitsubishi agreed earlier this year to become co-financer of four of the transmission cable links. This has "helped to significantly relax the situation for the future," said Breuer. "This is demonstrated by the contract for DolWin 3 which has been granted and Borwin 3 and 4 are up for tender, all without any up-front securing of finance," he added.

Tennet has also felt confident enough to change its tendering procedure for BorWin 3 and 4, doing away with a single general contractor and dividing the work into several lots and allowing more competition. "This will reduce costs by a double digit percentage sum," said Breuer.

On the downside, "we are now receiving claims for damages in connection with the delays to date in network completion, but there won't be any more delays in connection with construction of the cable links," he said, adding: "We can't rule out future interruptions in transmission due to cable failures, however, because there is no redundancy in the cable connections to shore".

The federal energy agency is thinking about whether interconnecting cable links at sea – so one could shoulder all or part of another cable's transmission if a failure occurred – would be economically sensible. But as the cables have 98% availability – only 6-7 days downtime per year – "it's a question of whether the extra investment is worthwhile," said Breuer. The converter platforms for the Helwin 1 and 2 and DolWin 1 and 3 cable systems are so close together, that they can be linked anyway on the AC current side, at "cost neutral investment," he added.

Breuer declined to predict the size of the offshore risk levy to electricity consumer bills, noting only that "the maximum rate of EUR 0.0025/kWh will not be needed to this full extent in 2014." The new liability arrangements in connection with delayed marine transmission cables connecting offshore wind stations to the onshore grid, and on operational interruptions due to faults on the lines, included this new offshore risk levy to cover liability costs.

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