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Significant year of changes on the journey towards carbon neutrality, with challenging market conditions weighing down the results

During 2021, Helen took significant decisions and progressed according to its strategy by investing especially in carbon-neutral energy production in Helsinki and in separate electricity production by wind power. 

As the energy transition picked up speed and became a reality, Helen also implemented other targets in accordance with its strategy. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the production and distribution of electricity, heat and cooling worked well. The financial period was characterised by sharp price increases in the commodity market in the electricity sector, as well as by the rapid variations in prices.

The net turnover of the Helen Group showed a clear increase in 2021. The trend in net turnover was affected especially by the record-high market prices of fuels and electricity at the end of the year, which significantly pushed up the net turnover of both electricity and heat. However, the result for the past year was considerably weaker than in the year before. Operating profit was depressed especially by the exceptionally strong increase in the price levels of energy procurement and emission allowances and by the cold weather at the end of the year.

“In 2021, we made significant decisions according to the strategy in order to accelerate carbon-neutral energy production in Helsinki. As a result of the decisions on the closing of the Hanasaari power plant and the end of production by 1 April 2023 at the latest and the closing of the Salmisaari coal-fired power plant by 1 April 2024 at the latest, the use of coal by Helen will end five years earlier than scheduled. Following these decisions, we started an accelerated transition towards renewable, emission-free and distributed energy production, which has been prepared for years. We also implemented investments in electricity generation by wind power according to the strategy. Our customer numbers increased further year on year, and our customer satisfaction stayed at a good level. We grew in all business areas. Our net turnover increased, but the challenging market conditions weighed down our business results,” 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, 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, Liikennevirta Oy, Böle Vindkraft Ab/Oy, Pjelax Vindkraft Ab/Oy, Kristinestad-Tjöck Vindpark Ab, &charge GmbH, and Think Outside AS.

January–December 2021

  • Net turnover for 2021 stood at EUR 1,318 (1,054) million. The trend in net turnover was affected especially by the record-high market prices of electricity at the end of the year, which significantly pushed up the net turnover of electricity sales.
  • The Group’s results declined from the previous year: operating profit stood at EUR 82 (176) million. Operating profit was depressed by the exceptionally strongly increased price levels of energy procurement and emission allowances.
  • Electricity sales totalled 5,478 GWh (6,027), down by 9 per cent.
  • District heat sales amounted to 6,885 GWh (5,833), up by 18 per cent.
  • District cooling sales stood at 203 GWh (172 GWh), up by 18 per cent.
  • Electricity distribution in Helsinki totalled 4,473 GWh (4,178 GWh), an increase of 7 per cent.

Key figures of the Group and parent company

  Group   Parent company  
  2021 2020 2021 2020
Net turnover, EUR mill. 1,318 1,054 1,198 942
Operating profit, EUR mill. 82 176 23 133
Operating profit, % 6 17 2 14
Profit before appropriations, EUR mill. 67 154 39 154
Investments, EUR mill. 295 204 207 145
Equity ratio, % 68 77 70 78
Return on investment, %  3 7 2 7
Personnel 31  Dec. 1,015 993 923 907
Balance sheet total, EUR mill. 3,115 2,806 3,001 2,739

Equity ratio, % =
100 * own funds / balance sheet total
Own funds = balance sheet equity + voluntary provisions + depreciation difference deducted by tax liability

Return on investment, % =
100 * (profit before appropriations + financing costs) / average capital invested
Capital invested = balance sheet total – non-interest-bearing debt

Key achievements during the financial year 2021:

  • Helen decided to phase out the use of coal more than five years earlier than scheduled. The closing of the Salmisaari coal-fired power plant by 1 April 2024 is a significant climate deed on a Finnish scale.
  • The Hanasaari power plant will be closed by 1 April 2023, after which the coal store will also be removed from the cityscape.
  • Construction of the geothermal heating plant started in Ruskeasuo in Helsinki in September.
  • Wind farm Tuulipuisto Lakiakangas 3 was built together with CPC Finland. It will be in full production during Q1/2022.
  • Helen decided on a new wind power investment, which will be built together with Fortum. Helen’s wind power production will be tripled as a result of the new investment.
  • Helen launched a new product, Fixed-Priced District Heat, which provides customers with increased predictability in the price of district heat.
  • Carbon-neutral district heat from the waste heat of data centres for our customers. The waste heat of Telia’s data centre will be used for heating homes in Helsinki from 2022.
  • Veritas reduces its carbon dioxide emissions with Helen’s recycled heat and emission-free cooling.
  • In e-mobility, significant cooperation agreements were signed: Helen’s charging services can now be used at Hesburger restaurants, Teboil Pirkanhovi, the charging points of the City of Espoo, and in Citycon shopping centres. In addition, Helen initiated cooperation with GreenMobility.

Events after the financial year

Russia’s attack on Ukraine has resulted in geopolitical instability, which will have impacts on the European energy system. Helen has a diverse heat production portfolio, and fuels have also been stored. It is crucial from our company’s point of view to safeguard energy management in all situations. For this reason, our company is seeking more diverse fuel procurement channels than at present. In addition, we have already previously communicated about our plans for accelerated transition to a distributed energy production system where the company’s dependence on imported energy will be reduced.

Outlook

Last year was another significant one along Helen’s steadfast journey towards carbon neutrality. The decisions to close the Salmisaari and Hanasaari power plants mean that production will change at an accelerated pace towards renewable, emission-free and distributed energy production.

In 2022, investments in carbon-neutral electricity and heat production will become a reality. The share of combined heat and power generation in electricity production will be reduced when Salmisaari and Hanasaari are removed from production, and the focus of electricity generation will shift to separate production. The main forms of separate production are wind, hydro and nuclear power. All 20 turbines of the Lakiakangas 3 wind farm are in production use from January 2022. The joint wind farms of Helen and Fortum in the Närpiö and Kristiinankaupunki region are making progress, as is the Kalistanneva wind farm in Kurikka, a joint project of Helen and the Ålandsbanken Wind Power Fund. The Vuosaari bioenergy heating plant will be completed for the heating period 2022–2023. The bioenergy heating plant will meet demand flexibility as far as possible also in view of future solutions.

Helen continues to invest in large-scale recycling of energy with heat pumps, with also projects for the storage of heat under plan. When implemented, the change in the tax category of heat pumps will promote carbon-neutral investments, which is a precondition for many significant future investments. Helen continues studies on major carbon-neutrality projects, the seawater heat pump solution and the utilisation of waste heat in Kilpilahti. Moving on to the design phase with respect to either one will be studied during 2022. Helen is also actively investigating the utilisation of geothermal heat Small modular reactors seem very interesting as a longer-term alternative from the economic and technical point of view.

Helen’s vision is to be the most customer-focused energy company in the market. In order to reach this target, several ongoing projects are continued to improve the customer experience. The vision aiming for customer-orientation requires focusing on digital customer encounters and the digitalisation of the solution business.

Helen’s net turnover grew strongly amidst the changing market prices, but the result for the past year from the financial point of view was weaker than in the year before. Challenging market conditions and price fluctuations will continue to accelerate. This will further undermine the predictability of the energy markets. The situation of the electricity retail market will remain challenging in the changing market conditions. It can be said that the risks in the energy industry have generally increased, and they will still increase further. Helen’s profitability will be undermined further by the high costs of emission allowances and fuels in 2022.

The Helen Group’s annual report and report on social responsibility will be published on 15 March 2022.



Helen-konsernin tilinpäätös ja toimintakertomus 2021 (in Finnish)

Published: 04.03.2022 16:14