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Specialty Podcast: Alliant Introduces Gary Wagner - Risks The Power Industry May Face in the Next 5 Years

By Alliant Specialty

What does the next three to five years look like for the Power, Utility and Renewable clients? Rob Bothwell, and Derek Whipple, Alliant, welcomes Gary Wagner to the Alliant Power team to discuss the risks that continue to drive the market, including battery storage, ESG and convective storms. The team explores how Alliant provides the More Rewarding Way to Manage Risk with client-centric solutions.

Intro (00:00):
You're listening to the Alliant Specialty Podcast, dedicated to insurance and risk management solutions and trends shaping the market today.

Rob Bothwell (00:09):
I'd like to welcome everyone back to another Alliant Specialty Podcast. I'm Rob Bothwell, the managing director of Alliant's Power Team. With me today is Derek Whipple, our senior vice president, and Gary Wagner, who has recently joined our team. Today, we're going to hear some thoughts from both Gary and Derek and specifically from Gary on how and why he joined our team. So good morning, Gary.

Gary Wagner (00:30):
Morning, Rob. Good morning, Derek. Thanks for having me on. Yeah, I joined Alliant just a couple months ago and one of the reasons that drew me to Alliant was I was very impressed with the experience of the team. Bring a lot of experience to service clients, especially in the power utility space. These are sophisticated insurance buyers and they're looking for different solutions, not just insurance. They're looking for alternatives that they can look at within their structured programs. They're looking for technical support, and those are two things that Alliant definitely brings to their clients. The other thing that drew me to Alliant is the client-focused mentality that Alliant has and making sure that they are being able to bring those resources to meet these client needs. Since I've started with Alliant, the other thing that I've been really impressed with is the collaboration of the team and how everybody works together to bring the best result for the client. Those things are really what drew me to Alliant. Another thing I would say is based upon my experience working in the power & utility space for over the last 15 years is it's really evolving, and it's an evolution towards renewables. Alliant is a definite leader in this space, whether it be own renewables or IPP.

Derek Whipple (01:46):
Yeah, Gary, and this is Derek. I just wanted to maybe add to a bit about what you talked about, why you joined this firm, and we've done a more recent podcast where I touched on four reasons why I joined the firm and quite frankly, ironically two of the four where exactly the two that you just mentioned. So, I think we're sort of aligned here with what it is we're trying to do as a firm and what we're trying to do as an organization. You know, having said all that, I mean, what does that all sort of translate to? Right. And I think that we've all been around this industry a long time, and one of the things that people always ask us is, you know, where's the industry going, right? And, it's seen a lot of change over the last several years and let's be honest. I mean, change is going to be a constant thing in our business, right. And one of the biggest changes that we've all seen and we've all been a big part of, is sort of this transition of the traditional utility to more of a renewables focus. I know you've got a lot of experience having worked with some of the largest utilities in the country and seeing that evolution and might be interesting to get your perspective on maybe two or three things that you're seeing in regards to that maybe a couple of challenges that our clients are seeing and maybe some of the ways that we can help them with those challenges.

Gary Wagner (02:51):
Yeah. Derek, definitely agree. There's been an evolution in this space towards renewables and it's not just one sector. It's public, it's private, it's owned it's IPP, you're definitely seeing a trend in evolution towards the renewable space. I think with that evolution, one of the things that Alliant brings is not only the experience in the space, but that experience is both in the insurance side of it, as well as the technical side of it. One of the things I really liked about Alliant was the technical resources that they was able to bring, especially relative to renewables and battery storage. That is a quickly evolving area.

Derek Whipple (03:33):
Yeah. Would agree with that a hundred percent. It's a challenging environment, right? I mean, I think that, as I mentioned earlier, it's, there's this whole notion of change is going to be constant. And that's a fact, I mean, just ask anybody that's in the renewable space, right. I mean, whether you're in wind, solar, battery or otherwise the changes at an alarming rate. We've certainly seen sort of the scaling of wind turbines and the size of those things, and some of the engineering challenges that have come around that. The availability of labor has been difficult. And then obviously more recently we've seen some,challenges around the battery area, get your thought around that as well. If we're being honest, that'san area of growth and isn't slowing down. I mean, what client do we have that isn't talking aboutsome form of battery stores. Right?

Gary Wagner (04:12):
Agree. Yeah. It's definitely a quick moving area. Like you said, you've seen the size of these wind turbines greatly expand. You've seen the technology relative to solar, change. You've seen the battery storage and the ongoing development. And with that, there are challenges, and there have been issues that our clients have ran into. There have been losses that have occurred, and I think one of the good things about Alliant and the experience that we have is, there's a lot of lessons learned that we can bring to our clients, get involved in the early planning stages and let them understand some of the difficulties maybe we've seen in the past on similar type of projects or other areas they might want to think about in their development to maybe help offset some of those challenges down the road.

Derek Whipple (04:53):
Yeah, you're right. That's the good and the bad, right. The good is we have a lot of experience. The bad is we have a lot of experience when it comes to losses. Right? One of the other things that been very, very, very pleased with is our guy, Brian Foster, right. You know, you've only been here a couple of months, but I know you've had some interactions with him as well. And maybe, maybe just touch on that a little bit, sort of your initial view or initial perspective on somebody of his caliber and quality.

Gary Wagner (05:15):
One of the things when I was talking to Rob initially, and just going over who Alliant is and learning more about what they bring, is that technical support and those on staff engineering, and Brian Foster being a leader in the area relative to battery storage and the development that's going on. And, you know, just seeing the new white paper that Brian has put out on the evolvement and that area, it's just very impressive. Being able to bring that resource to my clients.

Rob Bothwell (05:44):
Gary, tell me though, you know, you've been around the block, how do you see our engineering and our dedication to the engineering department really being a differentiating factor and how are we using that you think to help our clients really get to a better place?

Gary Wagner (06:01):
Yeah. One of the things I like about Alliant's approach, especially relative to engineering is as well as many other services that you bring. It's, just all one package to our client.

Rob Bothwell (06:12):
I agree with you, and I think that that's exactly the way we intended to set it up. Our thought process in the entire delivery to our clients is that the actual transaction of buying insurance is the last thing we do. And probably the easiest once we get to that point, because we've done so much upfront homework, so much work ahead of time to understand the risk and describe it and to be able to put it into perfect terms for the marketplace. That when we actually get to the transaction, I think we're in a much better place than we could have hoped to have been, if we didn't have all of these technical aspects, these engineers, the modeling, and all the other things that we're bringing to the table, as you said, all under one giant umbrella without having to go out and piecemeal it together.

Gary Wagner (06:56):
And I agree that my experience with Alliant that's done up front that's at the beginning. You know, it's not afterthought after you do your submission, you're working through things. It's a technical outlook from the get-go.

Derek Whipple (07:10):
Yep. No, and I think, you know, you guys are talking a little bit about all the, the technical issues and challenges we're seeing certainly with our clients. You know, we get this question all the time, too. Right. Which is okay, that's all great. We're dealing through the challenges of today, but what does the next three to five years look like? And what are those challenges look like? So I don't know if you guys have some perspective on, you know, is it more of the same? Is it something slightly different? How did maybe is offshore play into this a little bit?

Gary Wagner (07:34):
Yeah, sure. Derek, you know, this industry is going to continue to evolve. There's going to continue to be technological advances. How can things be done better? How things be more efficient, there's ESG that's out there that everybody has to plan around and figure out how are we going to do things better to address those issues as well?

Rob Bothwell (07:54):
Yeah. I think, you know, having been in this business for almost 35 years now, I've seen just enormous changes everything from the early hydro days and the early combined cycle days up to where we are now. And I think we are always, and always have tried to be on the cutting edge of those changes in the business and making sure that we're providing solutions as those changes come and getting ahead of where the underwriters are going to go and how they're thinking, providing education really to the marketplace so that we can drive the market, not just let them decide on where things should fall. So, we're really trying to be extremely proactive and we're going to continue that. And as you've already said, things like Brian Foster's white paper in the battery storage area. Now that is something, lots of underwriters are spending time really going through. We're spending a lot of time even drilling it down to make it a little easier for the layman to read and understand. The second aspect of it is you just really never know sometimes what is coming down, whether it be different risks. I think you went back a little bit in time here. No one would've ever thought the hail issue or the convective storm issues that we're seeing in the NACA areas. Would've been as extreme as they are or driving the market the way they are. And we're getting ahead of that. I mean, we come up with some really significant solutions for our clients in both those areas with that said Gary and Derek.


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