For producers and carriers looking for opportunities in the energy sector, one word sums up where a lot of the growth is occurring: alternative. Thanks to critical tax incentives, investments are flowing into the energy sector and construction has ramped up. Jobs are returning. And many industry observers believe today’s construction and production activity around alternative energy is just the forward edge of a trend that will continue for decades.
Still, the growth occurring in the renewable-energy sector is accompanied by new risks for insurers with which to test their underwriting skills. A large portion of renewable-energy companies submitted to insurance companies are brand-new entities that don’t have an operating past, and much of the technology being used is also new and untested—at least in comparison to the tools used in fossil-fuel extraction and production. And in the Energy game, there are no small losses.
Another complicating factor is that many alternative-energy business models are unconventional; there are many counterparties involved, including lenders and investors as well as equipment manufacturers, construction contractors and power purchasers—and in many cases there are contracts binding the energy producer to a certain expected output or other deliverables.
Click through for the perspectives of several of the top minds on the subject, all of whom spoke with PC360-NU for our line-focused digital issue devoted to Energy insurance.
Rick Gibbons, President, Zurich Global Energy
Rick Gibbons joined Zurich in 2009 after eight years at American International Group Inc., where he was president of Global Energy Property, responsible for underwriting and engineering services for oil & gas, power generation, mining and process industries worldwide. At Zurich he works closely with regional underwriting teams and coordinates Zurich risk-engineering and claims units. Prior to AIG, Gibbons spent more than 17 years at Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Co., where he eventually became COO of its special-risks division in London. He has more than 34 years of industry experience.
“The risks have always been there, but in the last three to five years there has been an increase in frequency—and certainly in severity—of claims,” says Gibbons. “Risk transfer is more important than ever. It takes a large, globally experienced company with the capacity to provide limits and differentiate deductibles and retentions, as well as captives.”
Robert Rokicki, Senior Vice President of Oil, Gas, Petrochemical and Chemical, Liberty International Underwriters
Robert Rokicki was brought on at Liberty International Underwriters (LIU) in January from a Fortune 100 insurer where he was responsible for managing a portfolio of energy property in the U.S. and Canada. At LIU he takes on a new role created to meet the growing need for Energy Property insurance in the U.S. and Latin America. Rokicki has 25 years of experience in directing business across a broad range of Energy Property insurance and advanced technology products, processes and markets.
“You must take a specialist approach,” Rokicki says of crafting Energy policies for various clients. “You can’t take what you do for office buildings and apply it to refineries.”
Peter J. Mavraganis, Senior Vice President, U.S. Renewable Energy Practice Leader, Marsh
With Marsh since 2003, Peter Mavraganis oversees clients in solar, onshore wind, offshore wind and biomass energy projects with a particular focus on risk management and insurance programs relating to offshore wind-power development in the U.S., biomass energy-facility development, and carbon-capture and storage projects.
Since 1973 he has developed extensive experience in the environmental arena developing, conducting and supervising environmental programs including hazardous-waste-site management, compliance and remediation projects under both Federal and State regulatory programs. Mavraganis has managed numerous projects relating to environmental assessments, remedial investigations and cleanups, and remediation for both private- and public-sector clients. Much of his experience has been with the energy, power and utility industry.
“There is a lot of money being spent because [federal production tax credits] have been extended,” says Mavraganis. “These financial incentives for construction and operation are getting a lot of investors interested.”
Darren Small, Vice President and Underwriting Manager, National Custom Casualty Energy unit for Ace USA
Darren Small has been in the insurance industry for 24 years, starting in commercial lines all-risk insurance. He then transitioned into large risk-managed hard-rock-mining accounts that included underwriting other energy-related risks like petroleum and power generation and renewable-energy biofuels. Small developed expertise in biofuels and other related renewable energy technologies such as wind, solar and biomass.
“The use of wind and solar technology as energy sources has been around for centuries,” says Small. “However, the pace of technological advancement and application of these technologies on an industrial scale within the past several years has developed around the world at a blistering pace.”
Brian K. McCarthy, President and CEO, Energi
Brian McCarthy was 18 when he followed his father and grandfather into the insurance industry. He joined the life insurance agency where his father worked, but moved on three years later to open his own agency with his wife, Michelle. At that wholesaler, energy industry specialist Conifer Insurance Agency Inc., McCarthy honed his expertise in alternative risk transfer and energy programs. Conifer merged with Energi in 2009.
“The Energy industry has substantial catastrophic risk exposure,” McCarthy says. “That’s what you have to underwrite out. The only way you can do that is by having very good and dedicated underwriting professionals. But in addition to that, you really have to have boots on the ground, loss-prevention and safety professionals [making site visits]—a lot of insurance companies haven’t made adequate investment in that.”
Pete Connors, Offshore Energy Global Product Leader, Allianz
Pete Connors was appointed offshore energy global product leader at Allianz in January 2012. He has 25 years of experience in the energy industry, most recently having served as president and CEO of Zurich Global Energy, the international arm of Zurich North America’s energy operations. Prior experience includes 15 years with AIG reaching the level of senior vice president of AIU Energy. As head of offshore energy for Allianz, Connors will oversee offshore business worldwide with a focus on global product management, including global-pricing strategy, underwriting appetite, product development and underwriting compliance.
“Capacity [for energy insurers] is continuing up after 2012—a year with a lack of natural catastrophes,” says Connors. “But you have to make sure your nat-cat aggregate is correct. Underwriters have to be vigilant in making certain what their ceiling is.”
Rob Bothwell, Executive Managing Director, National Energy Practice at Beecher Carlson
Rob Bothwell began his insurance career with the Chubb Group as a Boiler & Machinery underwriter. He spent the next four years as the Northeast Marketing Manager for the energy department of Zurich Insurance, where he was involved with some of the country’s largest independent power producers. In January 2005, Bothwell and core members of his team joined Beecher Carlson and as a result, more than two-dozen new clients were added to the Beecher Carlson Energy Practice. He specializes in the risk management of power-generation developers, utilities, owners and operators, assisting in all insurance-contract negotiations and the placement of tailored risk transfer.
“Relationships count,” Bothwell asserts. “When you manage and engineer and stay on top of things you get a feel for the company and head off the problems. It’s possible to get renewals without an increase.”
Stephen Coward, President of Energy and Engineering, Navigators
Stephen Coward has been president of Navigators’ Nav Tech division since the group-wide energy and engineering business unit was formed in January 2009. He previously served as managing director of Navigators Underwriting Agency Ltd. and he remains a member of its board of directors, a position held since July 2005. Prior to joining Navigators in 2002, Coward held underwriting management positions at SCOR and Copenhagen Re. He has co-authored several publications for the Insurance Institute of London and is a past Chairman of the London Engineering Group, having also been a founding member in the early 1980s.
“This is a severity business,” says Coward. “When something happens, it tends to be catastrophic and people lose lives. You have to be involved in not only paying a claim, but preventing tomorrow’s claim.”
Bertil Olsson, Managing Director for Marsh’s U.S. Energy, Mining and Power Practice
Bertil Olson has been with Marsh since 2008, coming over from another large brokerage where he worked for 16 years—mostly recently as practice leader of its Houston energy practice. He started his insurance career with Marsh’s Stockholm office working on large package programs for integrated oil companies. In his current role, Olsson oversees energy-related activities in the U.S., driving and coordinating growth in all energy areas.
“We remain optimistic,” he says. “Demand [for coverage] is increasing, as there is more opportunity for new projects.” Olsson says “activity has picked up” in gas-to-liquids facilities looking for cover.