A massive bill for cable repairs, entry to new markets, plans to join the floating wind party, and a place on a Time magazine list of corporate high-flyers – not exactly a dull week at Orsted.
The global offshore wind market-leader took the industry by surprise when it revealed that cable-related damage at a number of its operating projects including at the UK’s Race Bank could ending up costing almost $500m – although the Dane insisted current developments underway won’t be affected.
The cable issue dominated discussion of Orsted’s first-quarter results, which showed a 52% fall on one-off factors, but there was plenty else to chew on from the Danish group.
As analysts questioned the impact of greater competition in the offshore wind sector, two new markets appeared on Orsted’s radar this week alone. One is the Baltic nations, where Orsted unveiled a partnership with local utility Enefit, and the second Vietnam, where it aims to tap the “great potential” for offshore wind.
And it wasn’t just new geographical markets in Orsted’s sights. After years of standing back from the sector, the company plans to finally embrace floating wind projects, starting with a bid in the upcoming ScotWind round, as CEO Mads Nipper confirmed.
Orsted may be late to the floating party, but its journey from fossil group to green champion has already guaranteed it legendary status in the global energy transition – a fact recognised by Time as it put the Danish group among a select group of 100 companies deemed to be shaping our futures.
A big chunk of the new competition Orsted faces in offshore wind comes from the world’s oil giants, whose own strategies are under intense scrutiny from investors.
That’s true nowhere more than at BP, which from a standing start six months ago is now a player in two of the world’s most important offshore wind markets – the UK and US – and has huge green power targets that will surely see far more added soon.
CEO Bernard Looney and his top executive team this week fronted up directly to suggestions that the UK supermajor was overpaying to secure its footholds in offshore wind. They contend that integrated energy companies such as BP are better placed than anyone to extract maximum value from large-scale renewable power fleets – for example by feeding massive demand from their expanding EV charging networks.
Another oil giant in a hurry in offshore wind is Total, which piled on more megawatts in the sector with a stake in a major project off Taiwan, while Italy’s Eni, which also has ambitions in wind at sea, revealed it may part-sell or list its newly-formed renewables unit.
Not every oil & gas player is a latecomer to offshore wind. Equinor, which blazed a trail in both fixed-foundation and floating wind, reaped a $1.4bn one-off reward for its foresight in its first-quarter results thanks to project stake sales to aforementioned fossil peers BP and Eni.
The US renewable energy industry has, rightly, spent the last few months celebrating the total shift in policy and regulatory landscape under President Biden.
However, it is increasingly clear that America’s power networks – whether long-distance transmission lines or local and regional grids – need to be part of the solution or the country's whole green agenda will come up short.
The Biden administration took steps to address that reality this week with a $5bn loan scheme described as a “down payment on a modernised grid” in a bid to unlock the potential of 60GW of wind and solar.
The urgency of the situation was underlined by Massachusetts’ undersecretary of energy Judy Chang, who warned that failing to plan the grid now would inevitably undermine massive planned offshore wind deployments in the 2030.
With the role of the grid in the Texas power crisis still under scrutiny, and claims by Enel’s networks chief that the US system is behind Europe in key respects, the issue is set to remain centre stage.