News / 29.2.2024

Helen Group's financial statements release January–December 2023: Structural transformation of energy production takes concrete form

October–December 2023

  • Consolidated net sales decreased year-on-year and amounted to EUR 528 million (EUR 669 million).
  • Operating profit decreased significantly and was EUR -6 million (EUR 31 million).
  • Heat sales increased by 13 per cent year-on-year and amounted to 2,230 GWh (1,980 GWh).
  • Total electricity sales decreased by 6 per cent to 1,335 GWh (1,418 GWh).
  • Cooling sales increased by 12 per cent to 38 GWh (34 GWh).
  • Electricity distribution in Helsinki increased by 11 per cent to 1,235 GWh (1,110 GWh).

January–December 2023

  • Consolidated net sales increased year-on-year and amounted to EUR 1,826 million (EUR 1,785 million).
  • Reported operating profit decreased to EUR 93 million (EUR 142 million), but comparable operating profit was higher than in the previous year. Profitability was negatively affected by non-recurring items and accelerated depreciation recognised in connection with the discontinuation of coal-based production in Hanasaari and Salmisaari.
  • Return on capital employed was 4 per cent (4 per cent).
  • Heat sales decreased by 2 per cent year-on-year and amounted to 6,153 GWh (6,266 GWh).
  • Total electricity sales decreased by 1 per cent to 4,729 GWh (4,799 GWh).
  • Cooling sales remained largely unchanged from the previous year at 205 GWh (205 GWh).
  • Electricity distribution in Helsinki increased by 8 per cent to 4,387 GWh (4,351 GWh).

Consolidated key figures

  Q4/2023 Q4/2022 Q1–Q4/2023 Q1–Q4/2022
Net sales, EUR million 528 669 1,826 1,785
Operating profit before depreciations (EBITDA), EUR million 46 76 308 277
Operating profit/loss (EBIT), EUR million -6 31 93 142
% of net sales -1% 5% 5% 8%
Profit before taxes, EUR million -6 26 75 118
Capital expenditure, EUR million 150 335 408 562
Equity ratio, % 54% 58% 54% 58%
Return on capital employed (ROCE), % 4% 4% 4% 4%
Balance sheet at the end of the period 4,005 3,751 4,005 3,751
Personnel, average 757 936 757 936

Comments by CEO Olli Sirkka

For Helen, the year 2023 ended in a completely different situation to how began. There was a significant structural transformation towards cleaner energy production during the year in our electricity and heat production. Our direct emissions decreased by a historic 38 per cent. This reduced our costs arising from emission allowances by 30 per cent.

We took significant steps on our journey towards heat production based on bioenergy, heat pumps that take advantage of waste heat and environmental heat, and electric boilers. Our use of coal was cut by almost half due to the closure of the Hanasaari power plant. Our use of biofuels doubled, and the amount of heat produced with heat pumps increased by approximately 35 per cent. The factors behind these changes included the start of heat production at the Vuosaari bioenergy heating plant at the turn of the year 2022–2023 and the deployment of the seventh heat pump at the Katri Vala heat pump plant in spring 2023.

In electricity production, the deployment of the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant unit doubled the amount of electricity we produce with nuclear power. We own part of the nuclear power plant unit through an associated company. We also increased our wind power production during the year. However, the largest changes related to wind power are still ahead, as the wind farms we currently have under construction will be completed and start production in 2024 and 2025.

When the retail prices of electricity peaked in late 2022, we decided to make the situation easier for our consumer customers by launching the Helen Smart Electricity Guarantee electricity contract, which was priced substantially lower than the market prices in effect at the time. The decision caused significant hedging costs in electricity procurement. In district heating production, we also elected not to pass fully on to customer prices the costs arising from Russia’s war of aggression and the accumulation of fuel stockpiles to ensure security of supply.

Consolidated net sales increased by 2 per cent year-on-year. Net sales derived from electricity production were lower than the previous year due to lower market prices and lower production volume. Net sales from electricity retail, in turn, were higher than in the previous year. Our operating profit decreased by approximately 35 per cent to EUR 93 million. The result was negatively affected by the accelerated depreciation of fixed assets recognised in connection with the discontinuation of coal-based production in Hanasaari and Salmisaari.

We are continuing to make steady progress on our path towards carbon-neutral energy production by 2030. In the latter part of the year, we published our new strategy, which has the green transition, flexibility and profitability as its core priorities. Profitable business enables significant investments in green transition projects, which we implement by increasing the flexibility and responsiveness of the energy system. In addition, we aim to phase out combustion-based energy production by 2040. To support the achievement of complete non-combustion, we signed a Letter of Intent on small-scale nuclear power in 2023.

Significant events during the financial year

  • Olli Sirkka became the CEO of Helen on 16 January. Juha-Pekka Weckström, who had served as CEO until the end of 2022, moved on to new challenges outside the company.
  • The Chairman of Helen’s Board of Directors changed following the resignation of Osmo Soininvaara. Atte Harjanne was elected as the new Chairman of the Board of Directors.
  • Early in the year, we launched Helen Smart Electricity Guarantee, an electricity contract that brings price stability to the market to mitigate the challenges faced by customers due to the high market prices of electricity.
  • We closed the Hanasaari power plant, which had started its operations in 1974. Instead of coal, our future heat production will be based on sustainable forms of energy production, such as the utilisation of renewable biomass and various types of waste and environmental heat. We produce electricity with wind, solar, hydro and nuclear power.
  • We commissioned the seventh and last heat pump at the Katri Vala heat pump plant. It utilises heat from wastewater and has a thermal output power of 32 MW and cooling power of 21.5 MW.
  • We decided to convert the coal-fired boiler plant at the Salmisaari power plant site into a pellet-fired boiler. 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 decided to continue the production use of the Salmisaari power plant for the duration of the heating season 2024–2025 to safeguard the supply reliability and security of supply of energy in Helsinki.
  • Production began at our first solar farm in Nurmijärvi. The solar farm consists of approximately 2,800 solar panels and its total capacity is 1.5 MW.
  • The Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant unit of Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) started regular electricity production on 16 April and commercial operation on 1 May. Our subsidiary Oy Mankala Ab is a shareholder of the power plant unit through its ownership of TVO shares.
  • We commenced preliminary studies on the development of an industrial hydrogen valley in Uusimaa in collaboration with Neste Corporation, Gasgrid Finland Oy and Vantaan Energia Oy. In connection with this, we announced that we are planning large-scale hydrogen production at the Vuosaari power plant site.
  • We launched our new strategy, which has the green transition, flexibility and profitability as its core priorities. Our goal of carbon neutral energy production by 2030 remains unchanged, but we also aim to phase out combustion-based energy production by 2040.

Significant events after the financial year

  • In accordance with our new strategy, we adopted an organisational structure based on business units that are accountable for their results and Group functions that support the business units. These changes entered into effect on 1 January 2024. Our new Management Group also started its operations at the same time.
  • We decided to discontinue energy production at the Kellosaari power plant and will begin preparations for the dismantling of the plant. The decision stems from the expiration of the power plant’s lease, in which the counterparty is the transmission system operator Fingrid Oyj. We held discussions on extending the power plant’s preparedness for production with Fingrid Oyj, the National Emergency Supply Agency and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, but the discussions did not lead to the desired outcome. The plant has served as a reserve power plant for disturbances in the electricity markets and operating it on market terms is neither financially feasible nor possible under the existing permit conditions.
  • We initiated change negotiations concerning the Product Management and B2B Sales units under the Customers and Services business as well as the BSE Customer Solutions and Remote Control work units of the Heating and Cooling business. The scope of the negotiations covers approximately 76 people. Through these adjustment measures, we seek business profitability in 2025.

Outlook

Investments in carbon-neutral electricity, heat and cooling 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. In the future, it will consist of heat pumps, electric boilers and sustainable bioenergy. We are also promoting the progress of our hydrogen- related partnerships and continuing to study the role of small modular reactors (SMRs) as one of the energy sources of the future.

The role of electricity transmission and distribution networks as an enabler of a sustainable energy system grows in importance as electricity consumption increases and production moves away from growth centres. Investments in the main grid and distribution networks must be ensured so that the transmission capacity is adequate to also support the electrification of heat production in Helsinki. At present, it appears that the construction of the main grid is not fast enough, which may slow the green transition of district heating.

The uncertain economic situation and the inflation-driven rise in interest rates and costs is reflected in the energy sector as decreasing orders and financing-related challenges. In spite of these challenges, Finland must not lose its position as a leader in the green transition. Despite the weakening economic situation, it is extremely important to maintain the planned rate of investment so that the transition from fossil fuels to renewable and carbon neutral energy production is achieved in a timely manner.

As renewable energy capacity grows, increasing price volatility is expected to be a characteristic of the Finnish energy system in the future. Balancing the volatility requires the energy system to take advantage of new elements of flexibility, such as energy storage solutions and demand response. In the future, we aim to invest increasingly in enhancing the flexibility of the energy system. Electricity consumers’ preferences between fixed-price and spot price contracts play a crucial role in the implementation of demand response. It is possible that fixed-price electricity will not incentivise consumers to be flexible in the manner required by the system.

The operating conditions in the energy sector are determined by the acceptability of different production methods among both policymakers and citizens. For example, the acceptability of bioenergy and hydropower may come into question as the protection of biodiversity emerges as a topic of discussion. In the longer term, the same can be said for small-scale modular nuclear power and hydrogen production, which are alternatives to combustion-based energy production.

Changes in the regulatory environment also have a considerable impact on operating conditions in the energy sector. The development of regulation that allows small-scale modular nuclear power is important for phasing out combustion- based energy production. At the same time, the operating conditions in the energy sector are jeopardised by the European Commission’s proposed reforms to the electricity market model and the potential extension of the windfall tax on electricity companies. A predictable regulatory environment is a precondition for investments in the green transition.

At the same time as we renew our business and focus on the green transition with a stronger focus on flexibility, we aim, in line with our strategy, to enable a stable dividend yield. The significant fluctuations in electricity prices make it difficult to forecast the company’s earnings development, but we anticipate the 2024 result to be at a better level than the previous year.

Helen Group's Financial Statements and Annual Review will be published in March 2024.

Read more about the topic

Helen