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Customer numbers still growing strongly, investments at a record level

Helen’s net sales showed good growth, but the results were depressed by the increased price of emission allowances and the costs of energy procurement. Significant change projects and carbon-neutral production projects progressed as planned, and the company's investments were at a record level. Two capital investments were made, one in Norway and one in Germany.

- Despite the coronavirus pandemic, we have succeeded in continuing excellent sales work, and the customer numbers are still growing well in all customer segments and products. Our investment unit, Helen Ventures, continues its investments especially in growth companies that develop the exploitation of data. The building of carbon-neutral production continues in several projects. We gained more potential ideas from the international Helsinki Energy Challenge competition. The competition proposals are an excellent reflection of the fact that a carbon-neutral future is a team effort with many green technologies, says Juha-Pekka Weckström, President and CEO of Helen Ltd.

The Helen Group consists of the parent company Helen Ltd and the subsidiaries Helen Electricity Network Ltd, Oy Mankala Ab, and Helsingin Energiatunnelit Oy. Tuulipuisto Lakiakangas 3 Oy and Kristinestad Tupaneva Oy are also reported as new subsidiaries. The associated companies consolidated in the Group accounts 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 on a gross basis. The figures presented in brackets refer to the comparable figures for the previous year.

January-March 2021

  • The Group’s net sales grew in comparison with the same period in the previous year. Net sales stood at EUR 408 million (EUR 367 million). Operating profit decreased to EUR 63 million (EUR 83 million).
  • Heat sales grew by 23 per cent on the previous year, standing at 2,850 GWh (2,313 GWh).
  • Total electricity sales grew by 12 per cent to 2,226 GWh (1,984 GWh).
  • Cooling sales decreased by 1 per cent to 28 GWh (29 GWh).
  • Electricity distribution in Helsinki grew by 5 per cent to 1,227 GWh (1,169 GWh).

Helen group's key figures

  Q1/2021 Q1/2020 Change
Net sales, EUR mill. 408 367 11 %
Operating profit, EUR mill. 63 83 -24 %
Operating profit, % 15,4 22,5 -32 %
Profit before appropriations, EUR mill. 59 78 -25 %
Investments, EUR mill. 29 15 98 %
Equity ratio, % 76 78 -3 %
Return on capital invested, % 4,7 5,5 -15 %
Employees as of 31 March 995 975 2 %
Balance sheet total, EUR mill. 2900 2759 5 %

Key events in January-March

Energy market and carbon neutrality

  • The four winners of the Helsinki Energy Challenge competition were announced. The winning proposals are related to distributed energy production, the development of a market model for the district heating network, the storage of energy, and technology solutions related to production. Discussions will continue with the winning proposals.
  • The filling of the Mustikkamaa heat storage cave with water was completed and preliminary heating of the water was started. Production use of the heat storage caves will start and become part of the energy system in Helsinki in July–August.
  • Helen Ventures continued its international investments by investing in the Norwegian growth company Think Outside. The new technological solution developed by the company offers more accurate information for hydropower plants concerning the amount of water bound in snow, which makes the optimisation of hydropower production even more accurate than before.
  • The latest investment of Helen Ventures is LiveEO located in Berlin. The company focuses on asset monitoring based on earth observation in order to cut operating costs. LiveEO analyses satellite imagery with artificial intelligence and monitors infrastructure grids.

Customer solutions and services

  • Skanska and Helen implemented a unique energy storage facility in the rock caverns of Kruunuvuori. Plans for an ecological residential area are progressing. The objective is to build a large seasonal energy storage facility in the rock caverns to enable local energy production for the new residential area.
  • Helen is installing rapid charging stations for electric vehicles at shopping centres – the first rapid charging station was opened at Shopping Centre Columbus in Vuosaari. All Citycon shopping centres in Finland will be equipped with rapid charging stations for electric vehicles in partnership with Helen.
  • Helen and GreenMobility promote car sharing. Helen’s shared vehicle running on wind power offers a new, emission-free way of mobility.
  • Veritas reduces its carbon dioxide emissions with the aid of Helen’s recycled heat and emission-free cooling. Recycled heat is emission-free, carbon-neutral, recycled and processed waste heat.
  • The compensation calculation service and hourly netting of microgeneration introduced by Helen Electricity Network significantly improve the benefits gained by solar power microgenerators in Helsinki from their own panels.

Outlook

The price of emission allowances rose by almost a third during the quarter. The main factor behind the rise is the agreement reached on the increase of the EU’s emissions reduction target.

Price fluctuations in the electricity wholesale market are expected to gain strength in the next few years along with the rise in variable production. The price of electricity in January and February was higher than estimated: February saw the highest monthly price of electricity in ten years.

The Nordic water resources were at a higher level than normal at the beginning of the year. As a result of abundant hydropower production, the hydrological situation is now closer to normal.

The Helsinki Energy Challenge competition came to a conclusion in March. The winning proposals were rewarded for issues, on which Helen’s carbon-neutral investment programme is also focusing. Excellent new viewpoints were also produced, and discussions with the winning teams will continue.

The EU’s recovery instrument will speed up recovery from coronavirus, and some of the aid will be directed to the green transition. Helen’s carbon neutral projects fit well with this entity.

The EU’s sustainable funding and the related taxonomy regulation have a significant impact on the Finnish energy market. Worryingly, the current drafts do not specify nuclear, hydro and bio-energy as sustainable.

Helen’s investment unit Helen Ventures, which has been in operation for just over a year, has succeeded in making a good entry in the European market for growth companies. Through the investment operations, Helen is strongly involved in speeding up the transition in the energy sector while also promoting the innovations of its own business operations.

In Finland, the competitive landscape in electricity is undergoing a change, and competition for customers remains tense. Helen’s strengths include launching innovative solutions that improve competitiveness and promote climate change mitigation.

The tax increase on heating fuels will adversely affect the profitability of Helen’s business operations, as will the rise in the price of emission allowances.

A change in the tax category of heat pumps is an absolute requirement for carbon-neutral investments of the future.

The results for 2021 are estimated to be clearly lower than in the previous year. The profit outlook is diminished by higher fuel costs and excise tax on fossil fuels, as well as the rise in the price of emission allowances.

Published: 30.04.2021 08:30
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