“With the risk of employment uncertainty in the post-pandemic world, and with many of our young people impacted by education and social challenges, we have an opportunity to use our net zero future as a springboard to turn this tide,” explains Lindsay Dougan, Community Investment Manager on Dogger Bank Wind Farm.
“Dogger Bank Wind Farm is a key asset for the north and north-east of England. It will create and support thousands of jobs, as well as ensuring clean energy for future generations with the capacity to power 6 million UK homes. We take seriously our responsibility to develop the wind farm sustainably and part of this is our social commitment to share the benefit with coastal communities. We will invest £1 million during the construction of the wind farm and have committed to focusing on enhancing STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) attainment to ensure young people are prepared for the jobs of the future.
“We made a commitment when we were developing the wind farm that we would invest in STEM as we have a responsibility to make sure young people are ready for the job opportunities on their doorstep. What we didn’t foresee was that we would be delivering this commitment during a pandemic!
“Young people have had to experience social isolation and virtual learning in the last 18 months and we have an opportunity to use our net zero future to help them thrive during the pandemic recovery and beyond.
“We have taken our commitment to local areas seriously – we have listened to education and skills partners and it is their expertise and local priorities which has determined what the STEM funding focuses on from early years in East Riding of Yorkshire to school transition in South Tyneside. This approach ensures it maximises its impact for the 25,000 young people in these local areas.
“Our net zero future promises roles that will be challenging and rewarding in equal measure. From the turbine technicians who ensure the wind farms achieve optimum performance to the planning experts who will bring us even larger and more innovative wind farms in the future. The energy transition is one of society’s most pressing priorities and we have a responsibility to inspire and support the experts who will be the key to its success.
“We know from our experience engaging with local schools how keen young people are to challenge themselves to live sustainable lives. In a recent visit to Skipsea Primary School in East Riding a colleague was asked by an 8-year-old boy whether she bought her electricity from renewable energy sources. The smart boy cleverly pointed out the electric vehicle she arrived in would only help the planet if she was buying her fuel from sustainable providers. We may be the trailblazers of offshore wind but it’s the eight-year-olds of today who will shape our tomorrow.
“As we continue to build the world’s largest offshore wind farm at Dogger Bank, we have a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve the lives of people living in the coastal communities where we’re installing our infrastructure. And there’s never been a more important time to get this right.”
As a graduate engineer working on the world’s largest offshore wind farm Grant Beaton is not only developing his professional expertise, but he’s also feeding his desire to play a critical role in the global energy transition.
The 24-year-old University of Strathclyde graduate shares an insight into his role on Dogger Bank Wind Farm, offers advice to industry hopefuls and talks about why a trainee engineer should never stop asking questions.
“After leaving school I went to study a Masters in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Strathclyde. Doing a joint degree was challenging but definitely worthwhile, and I’m keen to develop my knowledge of both fields as I progress in my role on Dogger Bank Wind Farm as a graduate engineer.
“The renewable energy industry is constantly growing and is a sector that will continue to innovate as we meet the demands of the net zero journey, so I was thrilled to be able to join the Dogger Bank team in September 2020.
“I’ve always had a keen interest in the pursuit of solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems, and that’s pretty much what drove my desire to become an engineer. Even from the start of my studies until now there has been a real shift in the momentum of people wanting their energy to be produced in a more sustainable way, and it’s exciting to be part of that change.
“It’s been incredible to be working on a project the size of Dogger Bank and to be able to say you’ve contributed to it, but I can’t deny it’s also been a real learning curve. The hard work and ingenuity that goes on across the team on a daily basis is inspiring. As a young professional just starting out on a career path it’s been invaluable to understand the challenges and strengths required to make a project like this a success. That’s something that will stick with me for the rest of my career and will undoubtedly shape the engineer I’ll become.
“My long-term goals are to help the industry to achieve the net zero vision. On a short-term personal level I’m pretty open-minded about where my career will take me and what I’d like to do after finishing the graduate scheme. Throughout the two years I want to gain as much experience as possible, in as many business areas and teams as I can, and I’m obviously spoilt for choice when it comes to working on the world’s largest offshore wind farm.
“I’ve got a brilliant opportunity to work in roles I’ve had little or no knowledge about previously and I feel that will only be beneficial to my future career. I want to understand as much as possible about how the different teams and departments work together to bring projects like Dogger Bank through to completion.
“I have no regrets about the career choices I’ve made and would advise green-energy hopefuls to be open-minded about where they might fit into the renewable industry. Even if there is something you’re currently really passionate about, I’ve learnt that giving the time to different areas is beneficial to increase your knowledge, experience and overall confidence. I also think the best thing a young engineer can do is to keep asking questions, no matter how simple or complex they may be. Asking a question and getting an explanation that finally makes something click can take all of 2 minutes, but will make all the difference to the contribution you can make to a project like Dogger Bank.
“It’s hard to go half a day these days without hearing another story illustrating the severity of the climate crisis we find ourselves in. With the capacity to provide renewable energy for 6 million UK homes, Dogger Bank Wind Farm is demonstrating what can be achieved when you build on this scale using some of the world’s best available technology.
“I’ve got a real opportunity to contribute to this world-leading project and shape the future of green energy. I can’t think of another graduate opportunity that holds more promise for a young engineer.”
Grant Beaton, Graduate Engineer, Dogger Bank Wind Farm
In December we ended an extraordinary year for the Dogger Bank Wind Farm with a prestigious award from Project Finance International, as their Global Green Deal of the Year. Since then we’ve gone on to scoop Global Trade Review’s Best Deal of the Year, and TXF named us ECA-Backed Deal of the Year.
From historically low strike prices to unprecedented global economic uncertainty, Project Finance Director Oliver Cass (picture below) updates us on what made the financial close on the first two phases of the project a global phenomenon.
Dogger Bank Finance Director, Oliver Cass, on what made financial close on Dogger Bank A and B a global phenomenon
World’s biggest offshore wind farm
“The first thing that makes this milestone standout from any other offshore wind financing deal is the sheer scale of the project. Together, the three phases of Dogger Bank Wind Farm make it the world’s largest development of its kind, with a capacity to provide renewable energy for 6 million UK households.
“A large development needs a large financial package, and they don’t come bigger or much more complex than the financial close of Dogger Bank A and Dogger Bank B.”
29 lenders, 3 export credit agencies and 10 contracting parties
“To close these deals we had to manage the expectations of 29 lenders and 3 export credit agencies for each phase, as well as 10 diverse contracting parties.
“The need for structure from the very outset of the project has never been more important. We couldn’t afford for any part of the process to be derailed, so we had to make certain our business case was watertight at a very early stage.
“We carried out comprehensive market sounding in Q1 to test the structural features of the project, engaging early on with export credit agencies to make sure they were on board. We issued the banks with very detailed due diligence and a full set of financing documentation.
“Getting the conditions right and maximizing competitiveness, while aligning the banks and ECAs was critical.”
“Of course, the question most analysts have been itching to ask us is why we did two separate deals. The truth is whatever we did, we knew it was going to be a complex process with very bespoke arrangements.
“We knew we needed 5 to 6 billion pounds of debt and we were launching the project at the start of COVID, when there were concerns about the appetite in the debt market for a single project of that size.
“And while the two phases are very closely interlinked with the same tier one suppliers and a shared onshore cable route, we felt we would have greater success by offering two separate financings, ensuring maximum liquidity and competition, and optimising value for our shareholders.
“Reflecting on the situation now, I wouldn’t change how we structured the two deals.”
“Looking back to the early COVID world, there was a lot of concern in Spring that the global markets would be paralysed by the growing threat the pandemic posed.
“In the pre-COVID world we all thought 2020 was going to be an extraordinary market, and we were unexpectedly faced with the task of ensuring our lenders were happy with these new and emerging risks.
“To achieve financial close on time on two phases with the high volume of lenders and contracting parties was a huge success in its own right. To do this against the backdrop of a global pandemic was both unexpected and an extraordinary achievement for every person involved.”
Innovation and expertise
“And then there is the project itself. A brand-new turbine and HVDC technology not used in the UK for offshore wind before. Pioneering new technology is both exciting and challenging, but in the financial world you need to prove it’s a beneficial differentiator.
“If I had to single out one part of the process that really stood out from anything else, it’s the team. With a Herculean effort to negotiate and sign contracts with 10 major contracting parties for each phase, not to mention the unrivalled commitment from many people from multiple other organisations.
“This, together with the engineering excellence and sheer scale of the project, meant we were able to deliver a business case that works for lenders and shareholders at historic low strike prices.”
Historic low strike prices
“A couple of years ago it would not have been believed that a business case would stand up at such low strike prices, and that’s probably one of the stand-out characteristics of this eye-opening deal.
“It was always going to be a fine balancing act between cost and certainty, and the project proved to be sufficiently well-developed to get through financial close without a huge amount of contingency funding.
“Looking forward to financial close on Dogger Bank C later this year, we already anticipate interest being extremely high. We’ve had lots of lenders keen to get started on this third phase and we’re hugely excited about what can be achieved.
“To close the year with an award from Project Financing International and then go on to secure further recognition in 2021 is very rewarding for those who worked incredibly hard to achieve this gargantuan and complex financing against a backdrop of the biggest health and social challenge for generations.”