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Helen Group’s interim report January-March 2020

Net sales were reduced due to mild winter, impacts of the corona crisis are felt in Helen’s business environment

The first quarter of 2020 was exceptional in many respects. Heat sales were decreased due to the uncommonly mild winter, while the corona crisis had an impact on electricity distribution especially in March: in Helsinki, electricity consumption was down by as much as 15 per cent as a result of the service sector shut down. In total, electricity distribution decreased by 4 per cent in the early part of the year. Helen continues its reorganisation in accordance with the strategy confirmed a year ago. Investment in carbon neutrality also continues.

“The energy industry is a significant investor in Finland despite the corona crisis. Helen aims to be carbon neutral by year 2035. During the corona crisis, we safeguard sufficient supplies of electricity, heat and cooling as part of the Finnish security of supply system. As a responsible actor, we also want to ensure that our customers who find themselves in a difficult situation will come through these exceptional circumstances: we are prepared to negotiate on extending the payment periods. Despite the exceptional situation, we are promoting projects that will help us to build a carbon-neutral future, and we provide business opportunities for both Finnish and international businesses. The investment decisions taken in the early part of the year, with a total value of 300 million euros, will enable us to reduce the use of coal at a faster pace than predicted,” says Juha-Pekka Weckström who took up his duties as President and CEO of Helen Ltd on 1 April 2020.

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.

JANUARY–MARCH 2020

  • The Group’s results fell on the previous year. Net sales decreased to EUR 367 million (EUR 437 million), with operating profit amounting to EUR 83 million (EUR 90 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 15 per cent on the previous year due to the mild start to the year, totalling 2,313 GWh (2,708 GWh).
  • Total electricity sales fell by 22 per cent to 1,984 GWh (2,540 GWh).
  • Cooling sales increased by 9 per cent to 29 GWh (26 GWh).
  • Electricity distribution in Helsinki fell by 4 per cent to 1,169 GWh (1,215 GWh).

HELEN GROUP’S KEY FIGURES

  1-3/2020 1-3/2019 Change
Net sales, EUR mill. 367 437 -16%
Operating profit, EUR mill. 83 90 -8%
Operating profit, % 22.5 20.5 10%
Profit before appropriations, EUR mill. 78 86 -9%
Investments, EUR mill. 15 10 45%
Equity ratio, % 78 76 3%
Return on capital invested (rolling 12 months), % 5.5 5.4 2%
Employees as of 31 March 975 933 5%
Balance sheet total, EUR mill. 2759 2767 0%

KEY EVENTS IN JANUARY–MARCH

Energy market and carbon neutrality

  • Helen is speeding up the substitution of coal and is building a bioenergy heating plant in Vuosaari. Bringing the commissioning of the plant forward by a year permits partial discontinuation of coal use even sooner than anticipated. The value of the investment is about EUR 260 million.
  • Helen is investing more in the utilisation of excess heat: the Katri Vala heating and cooling plant located in Sörnäinen is expanded with a new heat pump, the seventh in total. The new pump is reportedly the largest in the world, twice as large as the other heat pumps in the plant. The investment will substitute 10 per cent of heat production at the Salmisaari power plant and enable a reduction in the use of coal also at Salmisaari at an earlier time than expected. The value of the investment is about EUR 30 million.
  • Helen’s natural gas business operations were sold to Suomen Kaasuenergia Oy on 31 December 2019. The sale did not have any personnel impacts.
  • The excess heat project at Kilpilahti is proceeding to the feasibility study phase. If implemented, the project would meet a quarter of the district heating volume required in the Helsinki region.
  • Helen is increasing heat energy sales with Vantaa Energy: the extension of Vantaa Energy’s waste-to-energy plant will produce carbon-neutral heat also for Helsinki.
  • The natural gas market opened up at the beginning of the year. As a result of the opening up of the market, it is now possible to diversify Helen’s natural gas procurement.

Customer solutions and services

  • The electric vehicle charging network is growing in Helsinki: Helen is delivering 33 new electric vehicle charging points at eight locations in connection with ice halls in Helsinki and the venues of Urheiluhallit Oy.
  • Korkeasaari is now heated with zero emissions. The zoo chose Helen’s Recycled Heat as its heating solution: heat is recycled from excess heat completely without emissions.
  • According to a survey commissioned by Helen, 53 per cent of Helsinki residents would choose green district heat. Not many people know that switching is available to everyone, also for those living in an apartment block.
  • Leanheat and Helen will launch cooperation. Leanheat’s solution based on artificial intelligence will complement Helen’s Kiinteistövahti service as a new feature that helps to optimise heating levels with the use of data measured by sensors. The new feature helps to reduce climate emissions in an efficient way because artificial intelligence automatically takes care of optimised heating controls.

President and CEO Pekka Manninen retired in spring 2020, and Juha-Pekka Weckström took over the position on 1 April 2020.

OUTLOOK

The price of electricity fell strongly in the early part of the year, as did the prices of other energy commodities. The excellent hydropower situation, warm winter and coronavirus have had a particular impact on the price of electricity. Demand for electricity fell in the early part of the year, and there were no peak consumption situations.

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 remain 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 we expect it 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 is expected to rise.

In its climate meeting in early February, the Finnish Government outlined that energy taxation will progress according to the Government Programme. Key outlines in terms of Helen included increasing taxation on combined heat and power generation and heating fuels, as well as transferring heat pumps and data centres generating heat for district heating networks to the lower category II electricity tax. The tax increase on combined heat and power generation and heating fuels will be implemented from the start of 2021. Its cost impact will be several millions of euros, and it will have a direct impact on the customers’ heating bills. The change in the tax category of heat pumps is a positive decision and it will significantly promote the profitability of excess heat utilisation. The reform requires compliance with EU legislation, and under the current circumstances there is not enough time to implement the taxation reform from the start of 2021 in accordance with the original schedule.

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 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.

In accordance with the strategy confirmed last year, Helen will respond 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 despite coronavirus – the energy industry plays a key role not only in the security of energy supply in an exceptional situation, but also 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 market price trends and the uncertainty concerning the economic performance as a result of the corona crisis.

Read Helen Group's interim report (Finnish)

Published: 27.04.2020 09:51
Seija Uusitalo
Communications Manager
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