This is a series of articles related to the news and development of the global energy sector with focus on Europe, Russia & CIS. The Group Practice Energy, Power & Mining comprises of dedicated group of risk and insurance professionals providing risk and insurance related advice to the companies active in broader energy sector.
In this edition of our quarterly update we decided to reflect on the changes to the insurance market for conventional power and renewable energy during the past several months.
A lot is being written, said and analysed on this matter. We tried to provide insights from the broader financial services industry, which will shape the insurance market in the future while the energy sector is undergoing significant reforms.
According to the BP Statistical Review, energy consumption in Europe (including Russia) fell by 1.1% in 2019, between 2008 and 2018 energy consumption in Europe contracted by 0.7%. Energy consumption in developed markets such as a North America and Europe has been steadily declining in contrast to growth in the emerging markets. The decline in energy consumption is set to continue in 2020 as the Covid-19 outbreak coupled with the economic downturn across Europe will weaken energy demand, and in the medium and long run, demographic changes in Europe, in particular a rise in the share of its ageing population, will continue to cause a decline in Europe’s global share of energy demand. On the other hand, as fossil fuels will be phased out from the fuel mix of the European Union, United States and other developed economies, the demand for electricity will keep growing, making investments in the power generation, transmission and distribution systems grow at an ever faster pace.
Several countries in the region have pledged to invest in developing their renewable energy sectors and have set internal greenhouse gas emission targets supplementing those set in the 2016 Paris Agreement.
The energy sector has reduced CO2 emission by 63% since 1990s, according to the report published by Energy Research Partnership. In an article which appeared on Business Insurance on March 16, 2021, Swiss Re pledged to exit all exposures from thermal coal in OECD countries by 2030 and the rest of the world by 2040. The move goes together with the investment policy to achieve net-zero emission by 2050. The reinsurer is one of the founding members of the United Nations Convened Zero Asset Owner Alliance, which includes global carriers like AXA, SCOR, QBE, Generali, Munich Re etc., who are likely to follow suit. The Alliance is representing USD 5,6 trillion assets under management and shows unified action to align portfolios addressing Article 2.1c of the Paris Agreement.
Assuming all projects proceed as planned, the current pipeline of projects will deliver 170.6GW of generating capacity in Europe in 2020-2024. Installed capacity is expected to peak in 2023, with 47GW projected to be installed as new capacity.
Europe – Power Generation, Construction Project Pipeline, Top 10 Countries by Value and Stage (US$ million)
Europe – Power Generation, Construction Project Pipeline by Type, Value and Stage (US$ million)
Focus on Wind Projects
There are several important factors contributing to the sharp rise of rates and deterioration of coverages offered by international re/insurance markets from 2019.
All of them are the result of operation of market forces. At this point it is important to keep in mind that the overall performance of an individual insurer, or the market, is the combination of the result on underwriting activity and investment activity. Continuing underperformance results in either re-underwriting of the existing portfolio or complete withdrawal from writing certain classes or business (or less often, winding down of the whole company). It is also important to understand that the insurance market, unlike many other financial markets (such as public equity and fixed income markets) is not transparent and objective market information is not available usually other than at very high granularity information made available by national regulators and industry trade associations.
Market Performance and General Underwriting Considerations – Hard Phase of the Insurance Cycle
The rating of Engineering and Construction classes of business for Onshore Wind would depend on the following factors:
The Profitability of the entire Insurance Industry
2020 was a year of continuing deterioration of underwriting result and net result. For example, in the Lloyd’s market which provides substantial reinsurance capacity to insurers worldwide, the underwriting loss was GBP 2.67 billion, down from GBP 538 million of loss in 2019. As the investment return also contracted significantly, the market ended 2020 with a total loss of GBP 887 million, down from a profit of GBP 2.53 billion in 2019. As in practical terms it means the erosion of capital across the market, the result is the pressure for immediate action by their shareholders or the Society of Lloyd’s (or any other regulator). The Lloyd’s combined ratio (measure of underwriting profitability) was 110%, however, excluding losses from Covid-19 it was down to 97%, still a very poor result for the entire market. It is estimated that the total amount of underwriting losses suffered by re/insurance markets worldwide were in excess of USD 100 billion across 2020.
Withdrawal of Underwriters from writing certain Classes of Business
Since 2019 this affected Marine Cargo, Engineering and Construction as well as Renewable Energy. It was driven either by Lloyd’s which has the power to accept or reject individual syndicates’ business plans, or the insurers’ own management as a result of changes in their risk appetite. There have also been withdrawals of capacity from major MGAs writing Renewables business such as Pioneer, which unfortunately had to be placed into run-off. Having said that, there have been some new insurers launched across 2020 and 2021, taking advantage from improved rating environment and not burdened with previous years’ losses. Several existing markets have also successfully raised new capital to support their business in the hardening market.
The market consensus is that the 1/1 2021 treaty renewals for Power and Renewables sector were higher than a year earlier. Also, the restructuring of treaty provisions, in many cases insurers are no longer protected by their obligatory treaties with respect to active loss attrition on their books. This will affect both direct insurers and facultative reinsurers alike.
For the companies that chose to continue providing coverage this took the form of:
With the trough of the pricing cycle for Onshore Wind in the Summer months of 2018, 2020 was yet another year which brought about deteriorating claims and reserves development experience for the Renewable Energy insurances. For example, the adverse development of losses incurred in 2018 moved the loss ratio for that period for an initial estimate of 66% to 80% as of 2020, which made the 2018 year of account unprofitable. This of course needs to be reflected in rating adjustments for insurances sold in future years.
Notable causes of rating increases for Onshore Wind projects typically include:
Diminishing Returns on Investing Activity
For many years, deficiencies in the performance of the underwriting function would normally be corrected by returns on the investing activity. It used to be normal that in certain classes of business combined ratio of 110% was accepted for prolonged period (meaning that on every USD100 of premium there were losses and costs of USD110 incurred). With negative interest rates environment prevailing for a prolonged time and increased asset price volatility this is no longer the case and the insurers are pushed towards technical (underwriting) profitability.
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Group Practice Leader Energy, Power and Mining
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