Helen Group’s interim report April–June 2020
The first half of 2020 was exceptional: the weather in the early part of the year was warmer than normal, the hydropower situation was excellent, and the coronavirus pandemic also had an impact on Helen’s operations.
The decrease in net sales continued in the second quarter, however, the Group’s operating profit was at the expected level. The business reorganisation continued. Helen Ventures, which was launched last autumn, made a minority investment in a growth company that optimises heat production with the aid of artificial intelligence. New services were launched on the market: for example, the virtual battery in connection with solar power plants, and ground-source heat as an addition to the range of energy solutions for properties. The building of carbon-neutral production continues in several projects.
“Although the coronavirus pandemic has also had an impact on Helen, we have continued to develop our operations in accordance with the strategy. We have been able to maintain a good level of profitability despite the exceptional situation. We made a significant entry in the Netherlands and invested in the growth company Gradyent, which optimises heat production with artificial intelligence. As a result of the investment, we can promote carbon neutrality also on a global scale and export Finnish energy expertise to the international market. In Finland, we have continued to build carbon-neutral production. We have also introduced on the market a number of solutions for the new energy era, such as the virtual battery for owners of solar power plants, and we have launched the building of first ground-source heat pilots together with our customers,” says Helen’s President and CEO Juha-Pekka Weckström.
The Helen Group consists of the parent company Helen Ltd and the subsidiaries Helen Electricity Network Ltd, Oy Mankala Ab, and Helsingin Energiatunnelit Oy. The Group’s associated companies are Voimapiha Oy, Suomen Merituuli Oy, and Liikennevirta Oy. As from the beginning of 2020, Helen started reporting the net sales and procurement of electricity in full. The figures in brackets are comparable to the same period in the previous year.
- The Group’s results fell on the corresponding period in the previous year. Net sales decreased to EUR 210 million (EUR 216 million), with operating profit amounting to EUR 22 million (EUR 26 million).
- Heat sales grew by 8 per cent on the previous year, standing at 1,164 GWh (1,078 GWh).
- Total electricity sales grew by 5 per cent to 1,301 GWh (1,237 GWh). · Cooling sales decreased by 3 per cent to 48 GWh (50 GWh).
- Electricity distribution in Helsinki fell by 8 per cent to 920 GWh (1,001 GWh).
- The Group’s results fell on the corresponding period in the previous year. Net sales decreased to EUR 576 million (EUR 652 million), with operating profit amounting to EUR 105 million (EUR 116 million). The trend in net sales was influenced by the extremely warm start to the year, which reduced the production volume of district heat. The relative profitability of business operations improved due to successful measures in the electricity market, however, absolute profitability declined due to decreased net sales.
- Heat sales were down by 8 per cent on the previous year due to the mild start to the year. Heat sales stood at 3,477 GWh (3,786 GWh).
- Total electricity sales fell by 13 per cent to 3,285 GWh (3,777 GWh).
- District cooling sales were at the previous year’s level at 77 GWh (76 GWh).
- Electricity distribution in Helsinki fell by 6 per cent to 2,089 GWh (2,216 GWh).
Helen Group's key figures
Key events in April–June
Energy market and carbon neutrality
Helen Ventures invested in a Dutch growth company, which optimises district heating systems with artificial intelligence. With the investment, Helen Ventures brings world-class district heating expertise to the company where artificial intelligence is applied in a global branch of industry.
Helen’s district heat emissions fell by 2.5 per cent in 2019 compared with the previous year. Helen is currently making significant investments in carbon-neutral energy production, and it will achieve a 40 per cent reduction in emissions by 2025 compared with the 1990 levels.
Helen’s Munkkisaari heating plant got a new look when the old green roof was turned into a verdant meadow. The bright vegetation of the meadow delights local residents and enhances the biodiversity of urban nature.
Customer solutions and services
As part of the company strategy, Helen Ltd offers its customers new kinds of customer solutions and services aiming for an efficient and carbon-neutral energy system. All of Helen’s cooling became carbon neutral. It is now possible to cool properties in Helsinki with fully emission-free cooling that utilises excess heat. Only renewable energy sources are utilised in cooling production.
Helen is creating a new heat production model with a new pilot project – ground-source heat was added to the carbon-neutral range of energy solutions for properties.
The Vallila offices of OP are now heated with emission-free Recycled Heat, which is 100-per-cent recycled excess heat. The introduction of emission-free Recycled Heat enables an emission reduction of some 4.6 per cent in terms of the OP Group’s own emissions.
The residential property to be built on the site of the former land transport centre in Pasila is heated and cooled in a carbon-neutral way. Novel energy solutions developed by Helen and Ilmarinen utilise several different heat sources, offering a solution for sustainable energy use in buildings in Finland.
Helen’s new virtual battery enables storing of property-specific solar power for later use.
The price of electricity fell sharply in the early part of the year, as did the prices of other energy commodities. The price of electricity was particularly affected by the excellent hydropower situation, warm winter and the coronavirus pandemic. Demand for electricity fell in the early part of the year, and there were no peak consumption situations. The fall in demand continued in the second quarter.
Price fluctuations in the electricity wholesale market are expected to gain strength in the next few years along with the rise in variable production. Competitiveness in the price of district heat will continue at a good level; due to the investment in carbon neutrality, it will remain competitive and in demand also in the future.
The outlook of the electricity market price trend is at a low level. It has a significant impact on the return expectations of electricity production investments, and it is expected to delay the start of projects.
The natural gas market opened to competition from the start of 2020. As a result of the opening up of the market, the competitiveness of natural gas has increased.
No major changes are expected to take place in energy taxation. If the taxation of fossil fuels increases, it will put upward pressure on the price of energy produced by coal and gas.
The change in the tax category for heat pumps generating heat for the district heating network is progressing according to the Government Programme. The change in the tax category has been submitted to the EU notification procedure with an aim to take legal effect from the beginning of 2022. The change would have a very positive impact on the profitability of current heat pump investments and those that have already been decided on, and it is also a significant factor in the study on excess heat of the industrial processes in the Kilpilahti area in Porvoo.
At the end of 2019, the European Commission proposed new, ambitious initiatives concerning the European climate, energy and environmental policy. The Green Deal initiative includes a wide range of climate issues, and new proposals for legislation can be expected. As one of the largest initiatives, the European Commission published the European Climate Law in early March, aiming to have climate neutrality as the EU’s binding target by year 2050 while also tightening the emission target for 2030 from the current 40 per cent to 50–55 per cent. Helen’s own carbon neutrality target is year 2035, and the tightening of the emission target will not bring a significant change to Helen’s own emissions trajectory.
During the period under review, Helen decided to join the international Science Based Targets initiative as the first energy company in Finland. Science Based Targets (SBT) is a science-based climate target initiative where companies commit themselves to the emissions reduction target in accordance with the Paris Agreement. Helen’s climate neutrality target is in line with the SBT target. As a result of joining SBT, Helen’s emissions target will be based on science, and the clarity and acceptability of the target will be improved in terms of customers and stakeholders.
In accordance with the strategy, despite the coronavirus pandemic, Helen is responding to the transformation of the energy sector through strong investment in the solution business and by building partnerships that support its strategy. Helen joins forces with customers and other stakeholders in order to build a carbon-neutral future. Resolving the climate challenge continues; the energy industry plays a key role as a significant investor.
The results for 2020 are estimated to be lower than in the previous year. In addition to the warm start to the year, the expected results are reduced by the electricity market price trends and the uncertainty concerning the economic performance as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.