Helen Group’s interim report January–September 2023: Carbon dioxide emissions decreased significantly
- Net sales grew by 16.5 per cent year-on-year, totalling EUR 246 million (EUR 295 million).
- Operating profit increased to EUR 22 million (EUR 58 million), representing 9.0 per cent (19.7 per cent) of net sales. Comparable* operating profit amounted to EUR 45 million (EUR 58 million), representing 18.1 per cent (19.7 per cent) of net sales.
- Electricity sales increased by 9.9 per cent to 915 GWh (833 GWh).
- Electricity distribution in Helsinki decreased by 0.9 per cent to 993 GWh (1,002 GWh).
- Heat sales decreased by 20.2 per cent to 483 GWh (606 GWh).
- Cooling sales decreased by 13.6 per cent to 76 GWh (88 GWh).
- Net sales grew by 16.3 per cent year-on-year, totalling EUR 1,298 million (EUR 1,116 million).
- Operating profit decreased to EUR 101 million (EUR 111 million), representing 7.8 per cent (10.0 per cent) of net sales. Comparable* operating profit amounted to EUR 158 million (EUR 111 million), representing 12.2 per cent (10 per cent) of net sales.
- Electricity sales increased by 0.4 per cent to 3,395 GWh (3,381 GWh).
- Electricity distribution in Helsinki decreased by 2.7 per cent to 3,152 GWh (3,241 GWh).
- Heat sales decreased by 8.5 per cent to 3,922 GWh (4,286 GWh).
- Cooling sales decreased by 2.3 per cent to 168 GWh (171 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||246||295||325||1,298||1,116||1,785|
|Operating margin, EUR million||74||88||59||264||201||276|
|Operating profit, EUR million||22||58||12||101||111||142|
|Operating profit, %||9||20||4||8||10||8|
|Profit before taxes, EUR million||29||44||6||104||93||119|
|Investments, EUR million||150||335||74||350||420||562|
|Equity ratio, %||58||57||57||58||57||58|
|Return on capital employed (ROCE), %||5||4||5||5||4||4|
|Balance sheet total||3,804||3,798||3,810||3,804||3,798||3,751|
|Number of employees||764||963||779||764||963||701|
The calculation of return on capital employed (ROCE) has been revised and the key figures for previous periods have been restated accordingly.
Comments by CEO Olli Sirkka
The green transition of society is moving ahead, and this requires energy companies to make significant investments in carbon-neutral energy production. This year, Helen has invested a total of approximately EUR 300 million in new solutions that replace fossil fuels. The level of investment has been on a par with the previous year.
The effects of the closure of the coal-powered Hanasaari B power plant took concrete form in the development of emissions for the third quarter. We replaced the use of coal and oil with biomass and natural gas, which reduced the specific carbon dioxide emissions of our energy production operations by over 90 per cent year-on-year. We did not burn any coal in the third quarter.
Replacing fossil fuels with biomass, among other energy sources, improves the cost-effectiveness of district heating for homes in Helsinki. Going forward, we aim to keep the market price for district heating competitive by means of heat pumps and electric boilers, among other solutions. In the early autumn, we started extensive alteration work at the Salmisaari production site, which supports our journey towards carbon-neutral energy production.
The electrification of the energy system requires flexibility to operate and balance out the variability in production based on weather-dependent energy sources. Our investments during the period under review included, for example, electricity storage infrastructure connected to the Lohja solar farm.
The Group’s net sales developed favourably in January–September and were significantly higher than in the corresponding period last year. Comparable profitability also improved significantly year-on-year. However, the non-recurring costs associated with the closure of the Hanasaari and Salmisaari power plants had a negative effect on reported operating profit.
We have begun the process of updating our strategy and will complete it by the end of the year. The updated strategy will lay out the steps for achieving carbon-neutral energy production by 2030 and ensuring the success of Helen Group and its customers through the energy transition.
Significant events in July–September
- We made an electricity storage investment at the Lohja solar farm, where we will build Helen’s first electricity storage that is connected to a solar farm. The construction of the solar farm will start in autumn 2023, and the electricity storage will be completed in 2024.
- We launched Battery Yield, a megawatt-scale service focused on operating energy storages for our customers, which optimises the offering of electricity stored in batteries in the electricity and reserve markets.
- We installed a Kalasydän unit at the Ahvenkoski hydropower plant located along the Kymijoki river to facilitate the passage of migratory fish. A hydraulic fishway will be built around the unit in spring 2024.
- We signed the Ministry of the Environment’s voluntary Green Deal agreement aimed at reducing construction site emissions. We also prepared an action plan for implementing emission reductions.
Significant events after the review period
- On 1 October 2023, the price period of district heating changed from the summer period to the autumn period. The overall price of district heating increased by an average of 2.8 per cent when compared to the autumn period last year.
- On 2 October 2023, we announced the renewal of our district heating products effective from the beginning of 2024. The aim is to better respond to the changing needs of our customers, as well as to increase the transparency and consistency of the pricing of district heating.
- On 3 October 2023, we announced that we had signed a Letter of Intent with Steady Energy with the aim of enabling an investment in a small-scale nuclear power plant for heat production. Steady Energy’s nuclear heat technology is based on state-of-the-art research by the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.
- On 8 October 2023, a leak was detected in the Balticconnector gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia. It was subsequently found that the leak was caused by damage to the pipeline. Gas transmission between Finland and Estonia has been shut down for the time being.
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. We will also pursue our hydrogen-related partnerships and 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 decreased, 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 year, we currently expect this year’s result to be similar to last year or slightly lower.
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.
The uncertain economic situation, along with rising interest rates and inflation, are likely to still influence customer behaviour next year. In addition, Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, and its spillover effects, will be reflected in the energy sector for a long time to come.