The reform that started with the incorporation of Helen Ltd continued in 2016. The process of change in the energy sector provides Helen with good opportunities to build new business operations. We updated our strategy to improve our competitiveness in the challenging market situation. We continue developing new products and services and improving the efficiency of our operations in order to maintain Helen’s position as the forerunner of energy companies and a reformer of the energy sector.
Helen Group’s results for the financial year exceeded the forecast level, but remained clearly below the previous year’s level. The drop in the operating profit was mainly due to the low market price of electricity, a lower sales volume of electricity and increased fuel costs.
Turnover totalled EUR 782 million (EUR 746 million) and operating profit stood at EUR 75 million (EUR 110 million). District heat production increased on the previous year due to colder weather. At 6,633 GWh, the sale of district heat grew by 10 per cent on the previous year. At 6,649 GWh, the electricity sales volume fell by 7 per cent. The sale of district cooling energy grew by 13 per cent on the previous year to 141 GWh as a result of new customers. Electricity distribution in Helsinki grew by 2 per cent to 4,424 GWh.
Helen’s growth target was promoted last year with strong investment especially in sales development and management of customer accounts. In the retail sale of electricity, we increased our market share considerably.
We made strong investments in the development of new energy solutions and customer-oriented services. We developed a completely new kind of service for consumers who are interested in responsible energy use and production. Members of the service are able to have a say on future energy solutions and to be among the first to test these solutions. In the first stage, Helen launched the Heat Pledge campaign, offering customers an option to reduce the emissions of energy production and to boost the efficiency of their own energy use. This also built a completely new way of implementing demand response management with private customers.
Contracts on the demand response management service were also drawn up with the first corporate customers.
The most significant strategic policy with respect to the development of Helen’s energy production structure is our long-term target of climate neutrality by the year 2050.
We aim to make progressive investments in reducing emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy sources, and utilise all the possibilities offered by new technologies. We also develop new energy production solutions together with customers.
The planning and preparation work on the pellet-fired heating plant to be built in Salmisaari continued, and its foundation work started in December 2016. The plant will be one of Finland’s biggest investments in renewable energy, and it will house the largest pellet boiler in Finland. The pellet-fired heating plant will be completed in early 2018.
Helen launched a partner search for local renewable energy production projects. The campaign was aimed at the public sector, associations and communities, with a goal of increasing the production of renewable energy together with the project partners. The partners were selected at the end of the year, and the project will progress to the implementation stage this year. Project financing utilises the funds accrued in Helen’s Environmental Penny account, which Helen has generated together with its customers.
Finland’s largest solar power plant was commissioned in spring 2016 in the Kivikko district of Helsinki. The solar power plant consists of 3,000 solar panels, and its estimated annual production corresponds to the annual consumption of about 350 one-bedroom flats. Together with the Suvilahti solar power plant, they produce a significant amount of solar power connected to the national grid.
The largest electricity storage facility in the Nordic countries was also commissioned last year. The electricity storage facility is a multipurpose tool for the smart grid of the future. In the future, electricity storage will act as a key element of flexibility that helps to harmonise production and consumption.
We made a significant investment decision on district cooling production: we will build a new industrial-scale heating and cooling plant in Helsinki, with two large heat pumps producing cooling and heat. The investment will reduce Helen’s carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 20,000 tonnes per year. The new heating and cooling plant will increase the cooling output of the Esplanade cooling centre to a total of 50 megawatts. Helen’s first heating and cooling plant, which is also the largest in the world, is located in Sörnäinen beneath the Katri Vala Park. Last year, the plant produced a record amount of district heat, a total of 491,000 MWh, i.e. 7 per cent of the district heat used in Helsinki.
During the year, Helen decided on the procurement of biogas. Helen is now producing district heat also with domestic, renewable biogas derived from waste and sells it to housing companies and corporate customers.
Helen Electricity Network Ltd signed an extension contract on the automation of 150 transformer substations, which will further improve the security of supply in electricity distribution in Helsinki.
Uncertainties in the economy and the energy markets in Europe and Finland continue to have repercussions on Helen’s operations.
The decision by the Finnish government to tighten the taxation of heating fuels will bring a significant extra burden on energy production. The National Energy and Climate Strategy published in the autumn will also have a considerable impact on the future of energy production in Finland.
The future of the energy sector seems challenging to us at Helen, but it also provides plenty of new opportunities. In order to mitigate climate change, we need ambitious targets but, above all, we need action. We are seeking new means to a good energy future with our partners and customers alike.
I would like to extend my warmest thanks to all Helen's employees, our customers and other stakeholders for excellent cooperation in 2016.