The Blog - Wind energy market analysis

Posted 08/01/2019

Richard Heap


Why should wind investors care about health and safety?

Richard Heap spoke to Jakob Lau Holst, CEO at the Global Wind Organisation, about why health and safety should matter to investors, and what the global expansion of the wind industry means for training standards.

Jakob Lau Holst, GWO

Jakob Lau Holst: "The more we get on board with this idea [of common standards], the more we create value for everyone... It's like a benevolent pyramid scheme!"


What does the Global Wind Organisation do?

We’re owned by many of the world’s largest turbine manufacturers and owners.  Before GWO, these companies had similar basic safety training but nothing mutually recognised. This wastes time and is confusing for employees, who become averse to maintaining their skills because they don’t want to go through the training again. The learning retention rate in that situation is low.

GWO published the first Basic Safety Training Standard in 2012. Today, there are 74,000+ people with a GWO certificate working in wind – almost 50% more than at the end of 2017. These people now have common skills that are recognised by employers, who don’t have to retrain them in the basics. A BST course takes about five days. Assuming five days of training is converted into five productive days by not retraining, then whatever a day has in value – call it €750 per day – then you come in for a pretty large number.


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Why should health and safety training matter to wind investors?

There’s a common interest between financial risk and health and safety. If you plan a project well and take care of all the health and safety risks, then you execute fast and with a lower, more predictable risk premium.

When you get to the financing community, the question is how do you assess risks in a project? The advantage of having standards for how you train people in basic safety, is mutual recognition between the main actors. You have reasonable certainty that people who work on the site have the skills to avoid dangerous situations, and can work safely.

Without a recognised set of standards, financial institutions lose this certainty. Some of our members report to us that they see this increasingly in projects in emerging markets, but the same can be true in any country. When a standard becomes an expectation in the financing of a project, everything can be documented clearly and the standard can be relied upon up and down the supply chain.


How do you decide what new training to launch?

Since the BST was launched, we have added Basic Technical Training, Advanced Rescue Training and Enhanced First Aid. In 2019, we’ll add Blade Repair to the list.

New standards always come as a result of collaboration between members and what are the greatest risks they see out there. We don’t do standardisation just to do it, there has to be a market and a safety benefit to be achieved from it. 

For example, there are 100+ different kinds of slinger signaller or slinger banksman training [for co-ordinating simple lifts of objects, including blades] in the marketplace within Europe alone. There is a lot of value to take that complexity out of the equation and just have one standardised.

Without standardisation, a specialist may have to take on the owner’s own specific training before going on-site, or the employer will spend time validating whichever certificate they claim to have for the job.

This takes days and is a waste of time. If the specialist can come with a GWO training and just go on-site, several weeks of duplicate training can be avoided, and they can be quicker fixing whatever the problem is.


How do you bring all of those together?

First, we work with the health and safety people within our membership to define the risks of those tasks. What are the risks associated and what do you need to learn? Then we work with subject matter experts from within our membership to devise a programme that can meet those risks. This doesn’t mean comparing 100+ different standards and then coming to some sort of average from that. We do start over.


Is there pressure to improve coming from investors?

Safety isn’t always at the top of the value chain. However, very good investors have extensive due diligence programmes, and will understand the influence safety can have on the total cost of risk. 

We don’t see enough of that, so we would like the industry to understand better how standards create value, improve productivity and help us to bring down the cost of energy ultimately.

Can we interest investors and get them more interested in this, and help create the demand? It’s a very simple idea. If we get a common demand from investors, from operators, from wind turbine manufacturers, then that mutual recognition will filter down through the industry and will create value for everyone. The more we get on board with this idea, the more value we create for everyone. It’s like a pyramid scheme, but it’s just a beneficial one. It’s like a benevolent pyramid scheme!


Are you concentrated in Europe and North America?

No and yes. GWO’s roots are in Europe, but growth is faster outside Europe than within. Some of the challenges we have lie in making GWO cross cultural boundaries, so whatever’s written in the standards can be understood in the same way across cultures and languages. This is a global ambition.

Another ambition is to work with the World Bank and International Finance Corporation to have GWO standards recognised them. They are responsible for Environmental Health & Safety Guidelines ,which act as benchmarks for financing institutions when they lend against new wind energy projects. We hope to convince them that the GWO is a benchmark that they can write into their guidelines to ensure all projects treat safety training in the same way.

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