When I joined Vattenfall in spring this year, three things jumped out at me. First was our UK growth story. The second was our determination to forge a future free from fossil fuels within a generation, and how that is transforming our business. And thirdly, being a state-owned Swedish energy company, there is a definite Swedish way of doing things.
Like many others, Vattenfall has been encouraged to invest in UK wind power – on and offshore – because of the determination of successive UK, Scottish and Welsh governments to take carbon out of the economy and people’s lives as quickly as possible. Over the last decade we have invested £3.5bn and built 11 wind farms. Collectively, they can produce enough power, in an average year, to meet the equivalent electricity demand of around 700,000 UK households. Our inward investment has led to the creation of thousands of jobs in the UK and supported thousands of UK businesses.
Looking ahead, we will continue to grow our renewable power capacity – we have a significant pipeline in the UK and seek innovative solutions for large-scale solar power farms and battery storage co-located with wind farms. If we build all this pipeline Vattenfall will be able to meet the electricity needs – based on current consumption – of 3.6m UK households.
And our leadership and expertise in Northern Europe in district heating, electric vehicle charging, and smart grids has now been brought to Britain.
We believe our commitment to large-scale, fossil-free district heating has the potential to bring to Britain what is quite normal in many cities on the continent. We set up Vattenfall UK Heat earlier this year and we are already actively seeking partners around the British Isles to help deliver on the district heating sector’s potential.
Similarly, with transport, we are using our European expertise to expand our InCharge electric vehicle business in a very exciting UK market. After launching InCharge in early summer this year, we expect to announce our first partnerships and public charging station roll-out very soon.
In power distribution, we want to deliver smart, independent networks which will help businesses to reduce cost by helping manage their networks better. Late last year we set up Vattenfall Networks Limited, after Ofgem, the regulator, granted us a licence to own and operate independent distribution networks.
Looking further ahead, we hope the research we are conducting in Sweden with our partners on the electrification and cleaning-up of the steel production process could be used by UK steelmakers. The HYBRIT partnership is world leading and hopefully will provide fossil-free solutions for what seemed an intractable problem a few years ago for much of heavy industry.
If we look right across our British businesses, it is clear that in the past 12 months, standing on the shoulders of our ten-year-old wind business, Vattenfall has made a significant commitment to grow in Britain.
That’s where our Swedish way of doing business is the key to success; there is an openness here, a real desire to be inclusive, for consensus, for partnerships because we know we don’t have all the answers, to be responsive to customer and societal need, and to have a clear purpose and long-term vision. These traits are not exclusive to Sweden, but these are the qualities I have found in the past six months at Vattenfall.
Danielle Lane is country manager at Vattenfall UK.