Zurich’s Streidl: Russia-Ukraine conflict to fast-track new energy projects but data scarcity will challenge underwriting

The Russia-Ukraine conflict will accelerate progress around emerging energy projects but a “lack of data and unproven technology” will present challenges when it comes to underwriting such risks, Zurich’s Frank Streidl has said.

Zurich’s head of marine, energy and construction UK spoke with The Insurer TV about the industry’s role as both an underwriter and investor in projects supporting the transition to clean energy.

These include the acceleration of technologies like carbon capture and storage and hydrogen-based products.

In June, when Streidl last spoke with The Insurer, he cited the lack of demand for projects in the new energy space as the main challenge for insurers, but the ongoing war in Ukraine has changed this.

“Most of these projects will now be fast-tracked because of the circumstances we are currently experiencing in Eastern Europe, and I think that’s an exciting development,” he said.

“As insurers, we want to be ready and prepared to support our customer base through that journey, ideally accelerating and gaining pace as we progress,” he added.

However, there remain obstacles around pricing, a lack of data availability and the feasibility of some of these new technologies.

Frank Streidl, Zurich

“Challenges are mainly around the data, the availability of data and unproven prototypical technologies,” Streidl said.

“That is holding us [insurance industry] back to some extent – not to the extent that we would not do it, but we need to be very, very careful how we address these new topics,” he said. 

“Similar to the oil and gas companies or the renewable energy companies, we have a responsibility to our shareholders,” he noted.

Russia-Ukraine conflict a double-edged sword 

While the conflict in Ukraine has acted as a catalyst for the industry to support moves to reduce dependence on Russian energy, it has also meant that some countries must turn to more carbon-intensive energy sources while new projects develop.

“The energy infrastructure takes quite a while to build out,” he said.

“So at that stage, we have to take a step back to allow coal and nuclear to play a bigger role for a limited amount of time whilst in parallel we then build out the new greener, low-carbon infrastructure going forward, to then replace the Russian products – hydrocarbons – as well as the out-of-date industries or undesirable industries like coal and nuclear,” Streidl said.

This dynamic places the industry in a difficult position when thinking about ESG and how to move forward when it comes to insuring fossil fuels and the wider energy transition. 

Streidl’s comments coincide with the news that Munich Re has introduced significant restrictions on oil and gas underwriting and investments as it steps up efforts to decarbonise its portfolio.

The group’s latest commitments, which follow the announcement that its energy-focused Lloyd’s syndicate will no longer insure traditional oil and gas business, will rule out coverage for new oil and gas fields as well as new midstream infrastructure related to oil and new oil-fired power plants.  


Green energy projects have been gaining traction across the market as a result of the sanctions imposed on Russia this year, and Streidl noted that one of the challenges for this industry is to ensure there is enough energy supply.

Reducing dependence on Russian energy – which Streidl pointed out accounts for as much as 50 percent of the mix in some countries – can only be achieved as alternative energy sources become available.

Offshore footprint growing

Streidl believes that offshore solar and wind have tremendous potential to grow, given the technology being developed in this field.

“We are now pushing out into shallow water locations to build it up and then ultimately, once the technology has caught up, we will look into floating wind and floating solar which will be very, very exciting from a technology point of view,” he explained.

These forms of energy generation could help increase the contribution from clean energies into the energy mix.

In addition, pressures from the lack of space for onshore projects could act as a catalyst for investment into the offshore space.

“We have to be mindful that onshore wind and solar need space – that space is scarce in certain parts of the world. Pretty much all onshore wind and solar locations that are suitable for low-carbon green production are taken. So the bottom line is we need to find new spaces, out of sight, big spaces, that we can use to generate more energy from solar and wind,” he concluded.

In addition, Streidl talks about the following topics:

-          The role of the insurers as underwriters and investors in the new energy space

-          How the Ukraine-Russia conflict is impacting the European energy mix

-          How the industry can best help the transition to net zero