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Speed of energy transition accelerating ‒Helen looks into reaching the carbon neutrality target in 2030, five years ahead of schedule

Helen’s net sales continued to grow strongly, but the result was still depressed by the sharply risen costs of energy procurement and emission allowances. The increased cost level also has a significant impact on the customers’ energy prices. Major change projects and projects in carbon-neutral production progressed as planned, promoting increased production of economically sensible, emission-free energy. The number of electricity contracts of households and small business customers continues to grow, and Helen has a record number of customers, about 590,000. Emissions have fallen by 8 per cent on the previous year.

"It is important to remember that Helen operates in an open market, and the global market prices have an impact on our operations. The increase in the price of fuels and emission allowances does not apply to Helen only. It is a global phenomenon, which has accelerated the speed of the energy transition. At Helen, changes in production are already well under way, and we continue building a carbon-neutral future by a variety of means. Digitalisation plays a key role in both production and customer solutions. We procure more emission-free electricity production by purchasing the shares of Loiste in Teollisuuden Voima, and we launched the drilling of Helsinki’s first geothermal heating plant in Ruskeasuo. The construction of the unique hybrid plant, which is among the largest in Finland, is making good progress in Vuosaari. The plant combines bioenergy with heat pumps in a novel way. Helen may reach its carbon neutrality target five years faster in 2030," says Helen’s President and CEO Juha-Pekka Weckström.

The Helen Group consists of the parent company Helen Ltd (Helen) and the subsidiaries Helen Electricity Network Ltd, Oy Mankala Ab, Helsingin Energiatunnelit Oy, Tuulipuisto Lakiakangas 3 Oy and Kristinestad Tupaneva Oy. The associated companies consolidated in the Group accounts are Voimapiha Oy, Suomen Merituuli Oy, and Liikennevirta Oy. The figures in brackets are comparable to the same period in the previous year.

July‒September 2021

  • The Group’s net sales grew year on year. Net sales stood at EUR 195 million (EUR 169 million). Operating profit increased to EUR 19 million (EUR 15 million). Despite the reduced electricity sales volume, net sales grew as a result of the rise in the market price of electricity and the cost-based price of district heat. Decreased electricity sales to the wholesale market had a key impact on the fall in the sales volume.
  • Heat sales grew by 13 per cent on the previous year, standing at 672 GWh (595 GWh).
  • Total electricity sales fell by 32 per cent to 730 GWh (1,072 GWh).
  • Cooling sales increased by 28 per cent to 83 GWh (65 GWh).
  • Electricity distribution in Helsinki grew by 7 per cent to 1,021 GWh (953 GWh).

January‒September 2021

  • The Group’s net sales grew significantly year on year, but the operating profit diminished considerably due to a substantial increase in costs. The result is diminished considerably by higher fuel costs and excise tax on fossil fuels, as well as by the rise in the price of emission allowances.
  • Net sales stood at EUR 827 million (EUR 746 million). Operating profit stood at EUR 93 million (EUR 120 million).
  • Heat sales grew by 14 per cent on the previous year, standing at 4,623 GWh (4,072 GWh).
  • Total electricity sales fell by 8 per cent to 4,003 GWh (4,357 GWh).
  • Cooling sales increased by 21 per cent to 172 GWh (142 GWh).
  • Electricity distribution in Helsinki grew by 7 per cent to 3,249 GWh (3,042 GWh).

Helen Group’s key figures

  7-9/
2021
7-9/
2020
Change 1-9/
2021
1-9/
2020
Change
Net sales, EUR mill. 195 169 15 % 827 746 11 %
Operating profit, EUR mill. 19 15 29 % 93 120 -22 %
Operating profit, % 9,6 8,6 13 % 11,3 16,0 - 30 %
Profit before appropriations, EUR mill. 16 8 92 % 82 102 - 20 %
Investments, EUR mill. 77 30 156 % 175 75 132 %
Equity ratio, % - -   76 78 - 2 %
Return on capital invested (rolling 12 months), % - -   4,5 5,4 -17 %
Employees as of 30 September - -   1020 990 3 %
Balance sheet total, EUR mill. - -   2795 2712 3 %

Key events in July‒September

The energy market and carbon neutrality

  • Drilling of the first medium-depth geothermal heat well in Helsinki was launched in Ruskeasuo in early September. The Ruskeasuo geothermal heating plant acts as a pilot site for testing and developing drilling technology and other technical solutions for new geothermal heat sites.
  • Helen invests in its largest electricity storage facility in connection with the Lakiakangas 3 wind farm. The output of the electricity storage facility is 5 MW and its energy capacity is 10 MWh. Corresponding to about 200 electric vehicle batteries, the storage facility will be only the second one to be located in connection with a wind farm, and in terms of its energy capacity it is among the largest in the country.
  • Helen is increasing its share of nuclear power produced in Olkiluoto. Helen’s subsidiary Oy Mankala Ab purchased the shares of Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) owned by the Loiste Group. In future, Helen will have more emission-free electricity as a result of the share transaction with the Loiste Group.

Customer solutions and services

  • Upon completion, the Myllypuro Ice Sports Centre will act as a source of district heat – waste heat will be recovered for heating homes in Helsinki. Helen signed a letter of intent on the new ice sports centre to be built in partnership with Caverion and YIT.
  • Information security of the Oma Helen application is developed together with cyber security supplier Fraktal and three high school students. Three high-schoolers who intruded the matriculation examination system were recruited by Fraktal for the summer to also assess the information security of Helen’s application.
  • Ice cream factory 3 Friends joined the solar panel boom that shows as a huge spike in Helen’s sales figures. A solar power plant was built on the roof of the ice-cream factory. The factory had already previously selected Helen’s emission-free Recycled Heat for its heating.

Outlook

The speed of the energy transition has accelerated both globally and in Finland. The prices of fossil commodities have risen sharply, which has significantly undermined the profitability of district heat production. The soaring rise in the price of emission allowances has also continued. The emissions market mechanism now steers strongly to carbon-neutral investments and improves their profitability in comparison with fossil production. It is noteworthy that excise taxes and emissions allowance fees currently account for over 46 per cent of the energy price of district heat charged to the customers.

The carbon neutrality target 2030 and zero emissions 2040 of the new city strategy of Helsinki are closely aligned with Helen’s plans, and Helen is committed to the City’s targets. It is great that the city strategy has also outlined the targets for e-mobility – it will open an excellent opportunity for Helen to promote the use of electric vehicles even more vigorously.

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 has still remained high during the autumn, and it has become a topic of discussion throughout Europe. Price changes in the electricity and heating markets are normal phenomena, but market developments are currently exacerbated by the concurrent low level of gas and water reserves and the increased demand for energy when the global economy recovers from the COVID-19 crisis.

In the past few years, Helen has made significant investments in the production of renewable and emission-free heat and electricity, and this work continues in several different projects and studies. We at Helen find the possibilities of small-scale nuclear power particularly interesting.

In addition to investments, the energy transition and carbon neutrality will also create new business opportunities for Helen. These are investigated, for example, in terms of hydrogen economy.

Sensible energy investments require long-term political decision-making. For example, the change in the tax category of heat pumps is very significant; the change is a vital prerequisite for the viability of carbon-neutral investments.

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: 06.08.2021 08:54
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