Even for one of the fastest rising stars of the energy transition, the offshore wind industry, meeting the International Energy Agency’s forecast of 2 TW of turbines spinning by 2050 – out of the 49 GW currently installed – is an inevitable daunting task. But for Jonathan Cole, who came to the start-up developer Corio Generation as CEO after leaving industry pacemaker Iberdrolathe challenge for the industry and its biggest players can only be seen as “the most amazing opportunity imaginable”.
Cole, who took over the top position at investment bank Macquarie, which was launched this month, is flanked by a leadership team that includes industry giants such as chairman Samuel Leupold, deputy CEO Alejandro de Hoz García-Bellido and technical director Torben Hvid, Larsen says Corio is part of a vanguard that will be fundamental to accelerating the world’s shift away from fossil fuels.
“Offshore wind will be paramount to the global energy transition and journey to net zero… and the vast amounts of clean, green energy we need on this planet that’s reliably and affordably produced,” Cole said Charge. “Virtually every country in the world with a coast will want to exploit [offshore wind].
“So what we need is as many players as possible [with] the willingness and ability to get in and really push this and get this done as quickly as possible in a sustainable and long-term way. The market needs that.”
He believes that the offshore wind industry, which up to this point in its development has been led by “the big utilities and the big oil companies coming in now, clearly has a place now for other types of developers – provided they have the core characteristics you need to be successful: Ability at every stage of a project’s lifecycle, not just economically or financially as a developer, but also as procurement, construction, operations”.
“And you really need to be able to play at scale,” adds Cole, who has overseen about 30GW of projects at Iberdrola in Europe, America and Asia.
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Corio, guaranteed by tens of billions of dollars in the coffers of Macquarie Asset Management — and with the option to receive “other support” from financiers — and endowed with a massive 15GW pipeline of projects under development, “fulfilled all criteria”.
“That’s what it’s all about: taking on large portfolios of projects and reducing costs and increasing industrial benefits while building the technology based on access to massive amounts of the right type of capital at the right time in a project.
“As far as startups go, we’re in a pretty good position because we’re launching with a portfolio of more than 15GW of projects touching every major market around the world,” says Cole, circling the world as he goes indicates developments in Great Britain. Ireland, Scandinavia, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Australia, which Corio inherits from Macquarie’s Green Investment Group.
We’re in a pretty good position for startups, starting with a portfolio of more than 15 GW of projects
“What Corio promises to be is a very relevant player in this market, a peer of many of the biggest players you see today [including, Orsted, Iberdrola and others] with a suitable portfolio and skills. We’re assembling a world-class team. On day one we will have about 100 employees in Corio and we will add at least 100 more over the next year.”
For Cole, what is needed now more than ever is a “new model” of developers that challenges the emerging status quo leadership of “Big Power and Big Oil” in offshore wind energy, as the sector evolves in its role as the engine of the Wind power is shifting the energy transition into higher gears at a time when the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned in the fight against global warming: “It’s now or never” that greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025 at the latest in order to see the worst impacts to ward off climate change.
“Corio exists solely for the purpose of offshore wind development. That’s what we’re here for. We are prepared for this and we optimize. All systems, all processes, all financing are developed for this. There is no confusion.
“What we’re going to do is develop this global portfolio of offshore wind assets – 15GW is the starting proposal, we’ll certainly add more fairly quickly – and we’ll look at what’s needed to enable the best development of these projects.” [in coming] come into play,” says Cole.
And that means looking at offshore wind energy production comprehensively and taking a more nuanced and flexible approach, from pure clean power generation from ground-based and floating projects to fully integrated offshore energy systems that include industrial-scale hydrogen production.
Macquarie was a first mover in floating wind via Giant Projects off South Korea with TotalEnergiesalong with plans for games including Scotland – again with the French oil supermajor, for a floating wind-plus-hydrogen project– and Norway, with Agder Energy for deep-sea areas to be auctioned in the Nordic country’s forthcoming maiden tender.
“Some markets will be pure green power generation and conversion, others will be hydrogen and energy storage and other things,” says Cole. “This is another strength of Corio, in my opinion: the group that gave rise to this company has a great industrial heritage in these different areas because it has invested in the entire value chain – electrons and molecules – of energy infrastructure.
“We will also be looking at new emerging markets and how we can enter them to capitalize on the potential while developing the organizational and financial capabilities to seize and capitalize on a good project opportunity at any stage of its life cycle in any market, in our increase ambition.”
The blunt goal, he says, “is to develop and commission these assets as quickly and efficiently as possible – that’s what’s best for the progress of the industry, what’s best for the energy transition, what’s best for the sustainability of our business “.
The development of Corio will be strategic, but also “opportunistic in the best sense of the word,” says Cole. “We are examining how we can further accelerate the development process [of offshore wind] – Using a long-term approach to developing strategic supply chain relationships and relationships with key stakeholders. This will help drive the market forward. That is a core goal of Corio.”
He adds that this also reflects “a personal goal”. I’ve been working in the offshore wind industry for a very long time from a time when it certainly wasn’t as promising as it is today.
“When I was thinking about what I wanted to do next [after Iberdrola] it started with my desire to be more deeply connected to the energy transition, to make a difference with a relevant player. To me, this is an amazing opportunity to be in it – an amazing place to be in it [in terms of project pipeline and capital backing]’ says Kohl.
“It’s like being offered a spot on the Harlem Globetrotters of Offshore Wind.”