Success by Design: The Need for an Adaptive Risk Governance Framework for the Danish Energy Island Program: Whitepaper

Igor Kozin, Josef Oehmen, J. Robert Taylor

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The Danish Energy Islands are one of the world’s most ambitious clean energy program

The construction of the Energy Islands on Bornholm in the Baltic Sea and in the North Sea, approximately 80 km from Thorsminde, a town on the cost of western Jutland, are one of the world’s most ambitious green energy programs. The Islands will serve as hubs for connecting and distributing power from the surrounding offshore wind farms (OWF) to several countries. It is expected to have an initial capacity of 3 GW of offshore wind and later reach full capacity at 10 GW for the island in the North Sea, which will be the first of several hubs in the North Sea that is planned to be put into operation in 2033 [1].

Given the scale of the new system and outstanding challenges, the time window of 10 years is rather narrow to design, build and guarantee that risks to health, safety, environment, assets, cost, and uninterrupted electricity supply are under control for the whole lifetime of +80 years. The consequences of failing to predict and manage the risks of complex global systems, like the Energy Island and connected to it systems, can be immense. The Island will have broad social impact and deficits in risk governance that, in particular, do not properly account for the diversity of different values of involved stakeholders may result in loss of credibility in management institutions.

Insufficiently managed risks - from health & safety to cost - can bring the largest engineering programs to a sudden halt: For good reason, injuries, and deaths on construction sites and during operations are unacceptable – both from an ethical as well from a legal and reputational point of view. And we can expect significant public scrutiny regarding promised budgets, schedules, and technical performance.

The technology to build the Energy Island and the whole offshore wind power system is largely available. However, the scale of the new system, the interconnectivity of activities taking place on the island and around it, the planned upscaling of the system, deployment of innovation activities (like Power-To-X) rase challenges to designers, engineers, risk managers, environmentalists, and society as a whole.

As stated in the report [2]: “Many of the necessary solutions required to enable a cost efficient, stable, reliable and resilient operation of the energy islands have not yet been demonstrated at commercial scale. The standards and grid codes are not developed, and we see a series of potential ‘chicken and egg’ issues where the developer of the energy islands needs to know the potential solutions from suppliers while suppliers await further specification from the developer.”

The Island will be constructed as a ‘flexible island’, which provides technological flexibility and serves as a platform for future additional technological solutions [1]. It will also include infrastructure for logistics such as a helipad and a service port, the area for personnel of transmission operator Energinet and other companies having facilities on the Island. It is flexible also in the sense that its capacity to support energy production will grow from 3 GW to a total connection of 10 GW from the OWFs. It will be a dynamic socio-technical system in constant development.

The dynamic nature of the Island and connected to it systems also means that during some prolonged periods of time there will be simultaneous activities taking place. While the first 3 GW facilities get operational, the construction of the second phase of scaling up the Island up to 10 GW will commence later. The simultaneous operation and construction on a limited area will result in an increased number of operating companies and people on site. At some points and additionally, new technological activities may be deployed on the Island as well. Thus, it will be the evolving landscape of stakeholders, stakeholder expectations, safety cultures and associated objectives.

The control of the system will be enabled by a cyber-layer. In this view, the designed system can be classified as a cyber-physical system, which imposes special requirements to security and safety. It will be a multi-layered system (physical layer, cyber-physical and cyber-layer), which will come with new risks that must be identified and kept under control.

The Island and connected to it OWFs will form part of the Danish and international critical infrastructure. It will have broad social impact nationally and internationally. Hence, there is potential for social mobilization and risk of political or public pressure on risk regulatory agencies and loss of credibility in management institutions.

In this White Paper, we outline the unique challenges that professional risk management face in the Energy Island program, and present a best-practice based Adaptive Safety Risk Governance Framework as the basis for discussing our approach to making the Energy Islands and the whole offshore power system a global inspiration - not only commercially viable and green, but also safe and resilient to shocks of different nature.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationEsbjerg
PublisherCentre of Maritime Health and Society
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)978-87-94345-50-7
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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