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JH Explorer in Charleston: Power cabling the energy transition

During a research trip to the US, Portfolio Manager Tal Lomnitzer spends some time at a high-end cable manufacturer – a company that is vital for the transmission of clean energy from production to consumption points.

Tal Lomnitzer, CFA

Tal Lomnitzer, CFA

Senior Investment Manager

23 Apr 2024
3 minute read

Key takeaways:

  • The electric cable industry is benefiting from an unprecedented wave of demand to build offshore wind farms and electricity grid infrastructure, and also from supply bottlenecks.
  • The high-end cable market is highly specialised, with complicated manufacturing, transport and cable laying processes.
  • Cable manufacturers are just one example of companies that are leveraging their expertise and are developing technologies to enable and benefit from the global energy transition.
The JH Explorer series follows our investment teams across the globe and shares their on-the-ground research at a country and company level.

Ever wondered how the clean green electrons generated at offshore wind farms find their way onshore?  I recently visited historic and picturesque Charleston in South Carolina to see Nexans’ electricity cable-making facility. My due diligence site visits often focus on the extraction and processing of copper, but we also invest in companies using that copper to make products to enable electrification and decarbonisation. In the case of Nexans, that copper and aluminium is utilised to make high voltage cables to transmit electrons from where they are generated to where they are needed.

The electric cable industry is dominated by companies such as Nexans, Prysmian and NKT. This industry is benefiting from an unprecedented wave of demand and bottlenecks in supply chains, as offshore wind farm developers and electricity grid infrastructure companies are racing to build out new capacity and strengthen grids.

The Nexans facility is truly impressive and this made me realise just how tough it is to break into the high-end cable market. It is really complicated and difficult to make these high voltage wires and even trickier to load the immensely heavy spools of cable onto specially constructed vessels and then lay them in tough offshore environments without damaging them.

Nexans also allowed us into their seemingly space-age cable testing centre, where lightning strikes can be simulated, cables are tested for tiny levels of current leakage, or sufficient voltage is generated to take cables to their failure limits.

Charleston is known for its charming architecture and vibrant culture, its role in the American Revolution and Civil War, and for being a hub for agriculture and trade, given its position at the confluence of two major tidal rivers. The city has played an integral part in shaping the US. With highly sought-after cables made by Nexans, it may also play a future role in enabling the development of renewable energy projects and electricity grid networks, not just in the US but in Europe too.

As I wandered around after my site visit, taking in the cobbled streets and exquisitely-preserved houses of the old French quarter, I discovered Charleston was called the ‘Holy City’ because of its tolerance of all religions. I reflected how in the late 19th century electricity had an almost divine status. It seems appropriate that the ‘Holy City’ is also now the place where the cables facilitating the electrification revolution are being made.

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Images published with permission from Nexans.


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