Why do DSU and BI exclude variable cost?

Variable cost refers to expenses that change proportionally with the level of production or business activity. These costs vary based on the volume of output or the level of sales and are typically incurred when producing goods or providing services. The key characteristic of variable costs is that they increase or decrease as the level of production or activity changes.

Variable costs can be directly attributed to the production process and are incurred to acquire or consume resources that are necessary for the creation of products or delivery of services. Examples of variable costs include raw materials, direct labor wages, utilities (such as electricity or water) that vary with production levels, packaging materials, sales commissions, and shipping costs.

The relationship between variable costs and production volume is often expressed as a cost per unit. For instance, if the variable cost of producing a widget is $2 and the company produces 100 widgets, the total variable cost would be $200. If the production volume increases to 200 widgets, the total variable cost would rise to $400.

In cost analysis and management, understanding variable costs is crucial for determining the breakeven point, calculating profit margins, assessing cost-volume-profit relationships, and making informed decisions about pricing, production levels, and resource allocation.

Variable costs typically associated with operating a power plant:

  1. Fuel Costs: The cost of the primary fuel used to generate electricity, such as coal, natural gas, oil, or renewable sources like biomass or solar. The price of fuel can vary based on market conditions and availability.
  2. Operating and Maintenance Costs: These include expenses related to the operation and maintenance of the power plant, such as labor costs for plant personnel, routine maintenance, repairs, and inspections.
  3. Emissions Allowances or Carbon Credits: In regions with carbon pricing mechanisms or cap-and-trade systems, power plants may need to purchase emissions allowances or carbon credits to comply with environmental regulations. The cost varies depending on the emissions produced by the plant.
  4. Water Usage Costs: Power plants that rely on water for cooling or steam generation may incur costs associated with water supply, treatment, and disposal. This includes expenses for water intake, treatment chemicals, wastewater management, and compliance with water usage regulations.
  5. Electricity Transmission and Distribution Costs: Power plants may need to account for charges related to transmitting and distributing electricity from the plant to the grid. These costs include fees for using transmission lines, transformers, substations, and other infrastructure.
  6. Start-up and Shutdown Costs: When a power plant is brought online or taken offline, there are costs associated with the start-up and shutdown processes. These costs include fuel consumption during start-up, maintenance activities, and any necessary system testing.
  7. Spare Parts and Equipment Replacement: Power plants require regular maintenance, including the replacement of worn-out parts and equipment. Variable costs can include expenses for purchasing spare parts, components, and equipment required for repairs or replacements.
  8. Waste Disposal: Power plants may generate waste materials, such as ash from coal-fired plants, which need to be properly disposed of. The costs associated with waste management, transportation, and disposal can vary depending on the plant’s technology and waste characteristics.
  9. Grid Ancillary Services: Power plants may need to provide or procure ancillary services to support grid stability and reliability. These services can include frequency regulation, voltage control, spinning reserve, and reactive power support, which may have associated costs.
  10. Variable Labor Costs: Labor costs can vary based on the level of electricity production. As power output increases or decreases, there may be a need for additional or reduced staffing, resulting in variable labor expenses.

It’s important to note that the specific variable costs can vary depending on the type of power plant, its technology, geographical location, and regulatory environment.

Delay in start-up (DSU) and business interruption (BI) insurance policies typically exclude coverage for variable costs for several reasons:

  1. Risk Management: Insurance policies are designed to mitigate specific risks and provide coverage for losses that are beyond the control of the insured. Variable costs, such as fuel and labor expenses, are considered normal operating costs that can fluctuate based on business operations and market conditions. Insurers typically aim to cover unexpected or extraordinary losses rather than normal operating expenses.
  2. Predictability and Control: Variable costs are within the control of the insured and can be managed and adjusted based on business needs and market conditions. They are considered inherent to the operation of the business and are expected to vary as production levels change. Insurers generally focus on covering risks that are more difficult to predict and control, such as property damage, equipment breakdowns, or unforeseen events.
  3. Insurability and Pricing: Including variable costs in insurance coverage would make the policies more complex and difficult to underwrite. Variable costs are highly specific to each business and can vary significantly between industries, making it challenging for insurers to accurately assess and price the risks associated with these costs. Insurers typically prefer to provide coverage for risks that are more standardized and have well-defined parameters.
  4. Moral Hazard: Including coverage for variable costs in insurance policies could create a moral hazard. If insured businesses have coverage for these costs, they may be less motivated to implement efficient cost-management practices or take necessary steps to mitigate losses. Insurers aim to encourage risk mitigation and responsible business practices by focusing on covering extraordinary or unforeseen events that are outside the control of the insured.

However, it’s worth noting that DSU and BI insurance policies can cover certain fixed costs that are incurred during a delay or interruption, such as rent, loan payments, non-variable labor costs, and other expenses that continue regardless of the level of production. The coverage is intended to help businesses recover from unexpected disruptions and resume operations without suffering severe financial losses.