A common sign of an immature market is a lack of standardization. The stories of how unnecessarily proprietary technology can lock entire industries into specific suppliers over decades, ensuring artificially inflated prices and less than stellar customer service is the stuff of many university business courses. The classic example is railroads in the 1800’s and how companies would build their system with a unique gauge thereby ensuring competing systems couldn’t use their track.
Customization was also the case with subsea telecommunications systems. For the better part of the first 100 years of the industry cable repair ships had to carry specific repair kits for each type of cable the systems in its footprint – although great for manufacturers, this made the entire system very costly and unwieldy and so the industry worked together to produce the Universal Joint which standardized much the repair of subsea telecommunications systems.
Given that well over 90% of the world’s communications goes over these systems to this day – I think we can all agree this was a huge success.
The new world of large scale offshore transmission needs to follow this path. J-tube manufacture and placement, cable design, cable protection, routing assumptions, burial targets, contracting models, spares, substation design, site logistics management, all of these are largely customized for a particular project with little or no priority given to the value gained in price improvement, efficiency and project quality when common industry standards are applied.
Due to the size and scale of markets around the world and the desire to drive sown construction costs as quickly as possible to align renewable energy prices with traditional production, project developers (and the governments who are supporting the emergence of the industry) should insist on offshore transmission system standardization.
Lets build efficiency and cost effectiveness into the market at its onset.