Germany's largest offshore wind project gets underway

Plans for the 497 MW Hohe See offshore wind farm in Europe’s North Sea are underway this week, with owner EnBW announcing its final investment decision and contractors identified.

Canadian energy infrastructure group Enbridge has acquired a 49.9 per cent stake in the €1.8bn ($1.9bn) project and the two companies are set to jointly build the windfarm, while EnBW will handle its operation and maintenance.

Located around 90 km north of the German island of Borkum, the 42 square km windfarm represents Germany’s largest offshore wind project to date and is planned to power around 560,000 households.

Siemens has been tapped to supply 71 of its 7 MW turbines plus foundations. The company said the contract represents the first time it will provide complete offshore wind power plant solutions including the foundations, the design of which it has been working on since last year.

The result was the development of a large monopile design with a length of up to 80 metres and a weight of up to 1500 tonnes, Siemens said.

Dutch subsea cable firm VBMS will provide the cabling under a contract which includes supply, installation and burial as well as termination and testing of 79 33 kV inter-array cables. A consortium consisting of Engie Fabricom, Iemants NV and CG Holdings Belgium will build the offshore substation.

Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2018 and the project is expected to come online the following year. 


Europe to invest $470m in energy infrastructure

Europe is to invest €444m ($473m) in energy infrastructure projects, the European Commission announced today.

Selected power, smart grid and gas projects are to be funded by the Connecting Europe Facility, the EU’s funding scheme for infrastructure.

Of the 18 projects selected, seven are in the electricity sector (winning support totalling €176m), 10 in the gas sector (€228m) and one smart grid (€40m). Five projects relate to construction works (€350m) and 13 to studies (€94m).

In the electricity sector, TenneT’s SuedLink project will receive €40.25m. The project is planned to connect wind power generated in northern Germany with consumer centres in the south through 700 km of underground high-voltage cables. It represents the nation’s largest energy infrastructure project to date, and the Commission said it “will ensure better integration of renewable energies and will also further enhance the cross-border exchange of energy with other EU member states”.

A 330 MW compressed air energy storage (CAES) project in Larne, Northern Ireland, being developed by utility Gaelectric and technology partner Dresser-Rand, is set to receive €90m. The project will store power from excess renewable generation in two underground salt caverns for later release. The project "will contribute to system flexibility and stability and facilitate the large-scale penetration of renewables into energy markets,” the Commission said.

And Slovenia and Croatia’s Sincrogrid smart grid project, which includes 10 MW of battery energy storage, grid integration of distributed generation resources such as small hydro and biogas plants as well as advanced control systems, is to be funded to the tune of €40m. The project will “enable current infrastructure to cope with the uptake of additional renewable energy and result in greater energy security without the need to build new overhead cables” according to the Commission.

Commission Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič said: “These are important projects with major cross-border implications. They are a tangible sign of what the Energy Union means for Europe and how the European Union can help making our countries stronger by cooperating closely together."

And Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete called the funding “another milestone in the setup of a cleaner, more competitive European energy market.”



Power sector cybersecurity ‘not keeping up with technology’ – report

Almost 90 per cent of power and utility executives say their cybersecurity strategy does not fully meet their company’s needs, a new report has found.

EY’s Global Information Security Survey 2016-17, released this week, showed that cybersecurity in the power sector is “not keeping up with technology” as companies struggle to manage increased risk from growth in digital and connected devices. Inadequate security operating models are also exacerbated by budget pressures, the report found.

And executives are aware of this. The number of surveyed executives who deem their cybersecurity strategy inadequate (89 per cent) is up on last year’s number (86 per cent), EY said, with 87 per cent reporting that they lack confidence in their organization’s cybersecurity measures.

A majority (66 per cent) of power and utility executives said their cybersecurity budgets will increase over the next 12 months. However, while 39 per cent of respondents said they would need at least a 25 per cent budget increase to achieve their desired level of risk tolerance, only 13 per cent expected to receive this increase in funding. In addition, 86 per cent said they would need up to 50 per cent more funding in order to adequately counter threats.

“Power and utility companies are grappling with significant disruption in the sector and the security implications of digital transformation often gets lost,” explained Matt Chambers, Risk and Cybersecurity Leader at EY Global Power & Utilities. “As a result, too many organizations only consider investing in cybersecurity after there is a large breach or if it’s mandated rather than committing budget up front.”

Of the surveyed executives, 57 per cent reported having had a recent cybersecurity incident. However, only 5 per cent had recently made a change to their organization’s strategy, with the majority of firms missing what EY identified as major aspects of a cybersecurity programme. Only 24 per cent of firms have an incident response plan in place to help them recover from malware and employee carelessness or misbehaviour – identified as the highest risk by 55 per cent of respondents.

Indeed, the report drew a distinction between ‘cyber resilience’ (establishing tools and strategies to protect against expected threats) and ‘cyber agility’ (the ability to react to change in a threat landscape). EY recommended a switch from a ‘fail-safe’ model in which defenses are expected to prevent an attack, to a ‘safe-to-fail’ model which can limit the damage. 

“Cybersecurity efforts often prioritize preventative controls – and it is important hygiene to protect the technology from standard threats – but that will be insufficient against a determined attacker,” Chambers said, warning that companies “must invest in strengthening detect and response capabilities. Attacks to disrupt safe and reliable service are already occurring.”

The full report is available here



Australia CEO says no more coal-fired plants

The head of a major Australian power company has said his firm has “no intention” of building additional coal-fired power plants despite Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s call for their construction.

Indeed, Martin Moore (pictured), CEO of Queensland state government-owned CS Energy, told Australian news outlet ABC that “it would surprise me greatly if there were ever any more coal-fired technology built in Australia”.

Moore also said clean coal technology is “not game-changing”, pointing out that an ultra-supercritical coal-fired plant “produces twice the emissions of gas-fired technology” as well as costing around AUD2bn ($1.5bn).

"These assets have a plant life roughly of 40 years, so it’s a very very big long-term bet,” he said. "I think it would be a very courageous board that would invest in coal-fired technology in Australia."

CS Energy currently operates two supercritical coal-fired plants: the 750 MW Kogan Creek plant and the 810 MW Callide C plant. The firm generates around one-third of Queensland’s electricity.

In a speech earlier this month, Turnbull called for more clean coal plants and said both coal and natural gas will have a significant role to play in Australia’s energy future.

He said that in the coming years Australia “will need more synchronous baseload power and as the world’s largest coal exporter, we have a vested interest in showing that we can provide both lower emissions and reliable baseload power with state-of-the-art clean coal-fired technology.”




Brexit could threaten UK nuclear plan says report

Exiting the European Union could threaten the UK’s nuclear ambitions, a new report has warned.

The nation’s plans to build new reactors and decommission older ones, as well as its nuclear fuel supply could be affected according to the report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

In its draft ‘Brexit bill’ released in January, the UK stated its intention to withdraw from the Euratom nuclear treaty when it leaves the EU. However, IMechE said such a move would “have significant implications for the UK nuclear and radioactive waste industries” and would “present the UK nuclear sector with a significant challenge in making alternative mitigating arrangements”.

One issue is the need for nuclear co-operation agreements (NCAs) with non-EU countries, which IMechE said are crucial “to enable any kind of trade in services, products or research” and which have hitherto been managed by Euratom.

“If the UK leaves Euratom without NCAs in place with non-EU countries and Euratom, it will not be able to develop any kind of trade deals for the UK nuclear industry,” IMechE warned.

“It is essential that the UK develops a transitional framework that provides the same provision as Euratom before the deadline to leave both the EU and Euratom.”

The nuclear sector itself is also aware of the potential problem. In a statement earlier this month, the GMB trade union said a potential Euratom exit would “threaten the UK’s entire nuclear industry – including severely delaying the new £18bn ($22.5bn) Hinkley Point C power plant.”

The union called for the UK to stay in Euratom “until nuclear interests can be guaranteed” and “a viable alternative can be found”.