Helen Group’s half-year interim report January–June 2023: A milestone on the path to carbon neutrality and new business initiatives
- Net sales grew by 4.1 per cent year-on-year, totalling EUR 325 million (EUR 312 million).
- Operating profit increased to EUR 12 million (EUR 9 million), representing 3.7 per cent (2.9 per cent) of net sales. Comparable* operating profit amounted to EUR 37 million (EUR 9 million), representing 12 per cent (2.9 per cent) of net sales.
- Electricity sales declined by 1.2 per cent to 1,035 GWh (1,048 GWh).
- Electricity distribution in Helsinki decreased by 1.9 per cent to 993 GWh (1,012 GWh).
- Heat sales declined by 12.2 per cent to 1,005 GWh (1,144 GWh).
- Cooling sales increased by 3.4 per cent to 61 GWh (59 GWh).
- Net sales grew by 28.1 per cent year-on-year, totalling EUR 1,052 million (EUR 821 million).
- Operating profit increased to EUR 79 million (EUR 53 million), representing 7.5 per cent (6.5 per cent) of net sales. Comparable* operating profit amounted to EUR 126 million (EUR 53 million), representing 12 per cent (6.5 per cent) of net sales.
- Electricity sales declined by 2.5 per cent to 2,486 GWh (2,548 GWh).
- Electricity distribution in Helsinki decreased by 3.7 per cent to 2,159 GWh (2,239 GWh).
- Heat sales declined by 7 per cent to 3,439 GWh (3,680 GWh).
- Cooling sales increased by 10.8 per cent to 92 GWh (83 GWh).
* The comparable result excludes the effect on the result arising from the early shutdown of coal-based heat production in Hanasaari and Salmisaari. This includes non-recurring cost effects that are materially related to the shutdown, as well as increases in the planned depreciation of fixed assets.
Helen Group’s key figures
|Net sales, EUR million||325||312||727||508||1,052||821||1,785|
|Operating margin, EUR million||59||39||131||75||190||112||276|
|Operating profit, EUR million||12||9||67||45||79||53||142|
|Operating profit, %||4||3||9||9||7||6||8|
|Profit before taxes, EUR million||6||11||69||37||74||48||119|
|Investments, EUR million||126||139||74||31||200||80||562|
|Equity ratio, %||57||61||57||69||57||61||58|
|Return on capital employed (ROCE), %||5||3||5||2||5||3||4|
|Balance sheet total, EUR million||3,810||3,494||3,980||3,136||3,810||3,494||3,751|
|Number of employees||779||1 011||727||974||779||1,011||701|
CEO Olli Sirkka comments
The second quarter started with a historic milestone as we closed the Hanasaari B power plant, which had served the people of Helsinki reliably for nearly 50 years, on the first of April. This reduces Helen’s carbon dioxide emissions by an impressive 40 per cent. We will replace the power plant’s coal-based heat production with heat pumps, electric boilers, and sustainable bioenergy, for example. The shutdown of Hanasaari will have a significant negative impact on the company’s result this year, as the shortened economic useful life of the production facility increased the depreciation expenses of fixed assets. Nevertheless, phasing out production that is based on fossil fuels is an economically sensible decision in the long term.
Helen has maintained its position as a reliable operator in the energy sector, and our sales performance has remained good. In the first half of the year, our net sales exceeded EUR 1 billion, representing significant year-on-year growth. Our operating profit also increased to EUR 79 million for the first half of the year.
The market prices of electricity declined, continuing the trend that began at the turn of the year, and the situation in the retail market stabilised as summer approached. In fact, prices decreased to such an extent that, during the period under review, the daily average spot price of electricity fell to negative territory for the first time in Finnish history. Meltwater from the winter snow forced hydropower plants to produce electricity in spite of the supply being otherwise sufficient. The situation concretised the change brought about by the increase in renewable energy production forms, which lead to more frequent and sharper fluctuations in the price of electricity. Increased volatility reduces the predictability of business operations.
As we move towards a new kind of electricity market, our heat production is also undergoing significant changes. Our goal is to achieve carbon-neutral energy production in 2030 and replace production based on fossil fuels with other solutions. We are exploring the opportunity to build an industrial scale hydrogen plant in Helsinki, which would produce clean hydrogen that supports the green transition of society. At the same time, we are investigating the potential role that hydrogen production and small modular nuclear reactors could play in district heat production.
Significant events in April–June
- We shut down the Hanasaari B power plant, which had begun its operations in 1974. Instead of coal, our heat production will be based on sustainable forms of energy production, such as the utilisation of renewable biomass and different types of waste and environmental heat. We produce electricity with hydro, wind, solar, and nuclear power.
- We commissioned the seventh and last heat pump at the Katri Vala heat pump plant. The heat pump utilises heat from wastewater and has a district heating power of 32 MW and cooling power of 21.5 MW.
- We connected Telia’s Pitäjänmäki data centre to Helen’s district heating network. The data centre, which will be gradually deployed for heating use, will eventually produce heat corresponding to the annual consumption of over 20,000 one-bedroom apartments.
- We decided to convert the coal-powered boiler unit at the Salmisaari power plant into a pellet-powered unit. The converted boiler is scheduled to start producing heat during the 2024–2025 heating season. We will also build a new industrial scale air-to-water heat pump plant and two electric boilers in Salmisaari.
- We signed a cooperation agreement on implementing a 400 kV electricity distribution connection for Helsinki in collaboration with the City of Helsinki and Fingrid. The cable connection will run from the Länsisalmi substation in Vantaa to the Viikinranta energy block in Helsinki and is scheduled to be completed in 2026.
- We began preliminary studies on the development of an industrial hydrogen valley in Uusimaa in collaboration with Neste, Gasgrid Finland, and Vantaa Energy. In connection with this, we announced we are planning large-scale hydrogen production at the Vuosaari power plant site.
- TVO's Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant unit started regular electricity production on 16 April and commercial operation on 1 May. We have an ownership stake in the power plant unit through TVO.
- The district heating price period changed on 1 April, at which time we increased the overall price of district heating by approximately four per cent compared to the corresponding price period last year. We also announced we are planning the renewal of our district heating product in 2024.
- The value added tax rate for electricity reverted to 24 per cent on 1 May. The value added tax on electricity was reduced to 10 per cent from 1 December 2022 to 30 April 2023.
- Helen’s Board of Directors had a change of Chairman following the resignation of Osmo Soininvaara. Atte Harjanne was elected as the new Chairman of the Board of Directors.
- Helen’s CEO Olli Sirkka was elected as the Chairman of the Executive Board of Finnish Energy.
Investments in carbon-neutral electricity and heat production are becoming concrete as new wind and solar farms are built around Finland and existing power plant sites in Helsinki are transformed. Helen’s production structure is shifting from combined heat and power generation to separate production, in which the main electricity production forms are wind, solar, hydro, and nuclear power. Heat production is rapidly becoming increasingly electric, and will consist of heat pumps, electric boilers, and sustainable bioenergy.
The role of solar power has grown in our business operations, and our goal is to make further investments in solar energy. The role of renewable hydrogen as an enabler of a carbon-neutral society has taken a step forward, and Helen is also currently advancing several hydrogen-related partnerships. In addition, we will continue to study the role of small modular reactors (SMRs) as one of the energy sources of the future.
To improve the customer experience, we invest especially in digital customer encounters and the digitalisation of the Solution Business. We develop our digital services that support customers in smart energy use and we want to play our part in increasing energy awareness in society.
The situation in the retail market for electricity has stabilised as market prices have declined, but price sensitivity remains high. The significant fluctuations in price make it very difficult to predict the company’s profit performance. The result for this year will be negatively affected by costs associated with the early shutdown of coal-based energy production and the temporary windfall tax on electricity businesses, among other factors. While the profit outlook has varied substantially during the first half of the year, we currently expect this year’s result to be similar to last year.
Uncertainty in the sector is increased not only by high volatility but also regulatory moves by the authorities. For example, the Consumer Ombudsman’s decision to petition the Market Court for preliminary rulings concerning electricity price increases and the rulings by the Energy Authority and the Consumer Disputes Board concerning reasonable electricity prices may influence operating models in the electricity sector in the future.