Since establishing in the UK in 2008, the Swedish state-owned energy company Vattenfall, has been paving the way for a more sustainable energy sector in the UK. Vattenfall is committed to continuing its growth journey in the UK, encouraging others to take the step into the UK market. “Do not be put off by the current disruption that you might be reading about. The UK is generally a very welcoming place and very open to have people investing and doing business here,” says Danielle Lane, UK Country Manager at Vattenfall.
Vattenfall is one of Europe’s largest producers and retailers of electricity and heat. As the world’s first state-owned power producer, Vattenfall has been around for a long time. Founded in Sweden in 1909, the company is today active in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and in the UK, employing about 20,000 people in total. Vattenfall produces electricity from several different energy sources, including hydro, nuclear, wind, solar, biomass, waste, coal, and natural gas. Today, the company is on a mission to phase out fossil-based production and to enable fossil-free living within one generation. Since 2008, Vattenfall has provided British homes and cities with district heating and power networks and is now working on several projects contributing to the decarbonisation of energy production in the UK.
Vattenfall’s business in the UK
13 years ago, Vattenfall stepped into the UK market after acquiring a business in the Netherlands which held a subsidiary in the UK. During the same year, Vattenfall acquired AMEC Wind Energy, an investment that certainly kicked things off in the UK. Today, the company has approximately a gigawatt of assets, both under operation but also in what cannot be described as anything else than a very strong pipeline of projects. “There are a number of exciting projects coming up in the next couple of years. We have a project up in Scotland, called South Kyle, which is currently under construction, aiming to be launched in 2022. In addition, we have two very large offshore wind projects off the coast of Norfolk in the pipeline, located in Norfolk Vanguard and Nova Borealis, which are expected to provide power for more than 3.9 million UK homes,” says Danielle Lane, UK Country Manager at Vattenfall.
Within the past two years, Vattenfall has also been working on setting up its heat business in the UK, with great results so far. As of now, three sites are up and running, providing heat for the inhabitants of the Midlothian region in Scotland, as well as Belvedere and Brent Cross in London. “The heat network is a growing area, and this is all new for the UK and for us. Obviously, we are bringing huge experience from our European businesses, and we are certainly benefiting from that,” Danielle explains.
Recently, Vattenfall also announced a new partnership with the real estate company Parabola to deliver one of the UK’s biggest all-electric property developments – a project in line with Vattenfall’s vision to be completely fossil fuel free within a generation.
A growing need for decarbonisation in the UK
The UK Government has made it very clear that the country needs to take action when it comes to decarbonisation, with the passing of a net zero emissions law in 2019, requiring the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. Danielle says that Vattenfall is able to bring both expertise and skills in a number of different areas that can contribute to the decarbonisation of the UK energy sector. “As we sit here today, we are still very committed to the UK, even after Brexit. We need to attract investment into the UK energy sector, and companies like Vattenfall can contribute to that. And so, we are certainly welcomed by the UK Government, I believe,” Danielle explains.
The effects of COVID-19 and Brexit
Following the pandemic and the UK leaving the EU, many businesses across different sectors have been affected in one way or another, but many have been flexible and innovative when it comes to adapting to these new situations. The biggest impacts on Vattenfall’s operations have been due to not being able to travel in the same way as before, resulting in delays within several projects. “I suspect we will find that freedom of movement becomes a bigger question for us as a European business in the future,” Danielle says, and continues: “What I would say, though, is that we have succeeded in maintaining safe operations at all our wind sites during the period. It hasn’t been without difficulty for the teams, but they have done a fantastic job of maintaining production and keeping safe operations going. We did have to set up ourselves with all the right customs documentation and make sure we had the right forms in place. However, we have adjusted, and are now up to speed,” Danielle explains.
"We work regularly with the Department for International Trade. It’s a very helpful department for us because they are able to provide introductions, not only to different companies, but also to different parts of the government."
Working closely with the DIT
To get help with regulations and guidelines, as well as being introduced to different stakeholders, Vattenfall is in contact with the Department for International Trade on a regular basis. “We work regularly with the Department for International Trade. It’s a very helpful department for us because they are able to provide introductions, not only to different companies, but also to different parts of the government. They are also helpful in explaining the intentions behind policies that might not be obvious at first read. For those reasons, I believe it is a good idea to engage with the department as a foreign company established in the UK,” Danielle says.
Regulations, stakeholder management and local content
When asked about the best advice for Swedish businesses in the energy sector looking to expand to the UK, there are three main areas Danielle emphasises, the first being regulatory. “On a practical level, the best advice I have is to really get to grips with all different types of regulatory requirements that are around. It can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming, but it will be so beneficial in the end,” she says.
The second area is stakeholder management. With the government being divided into regional governments, it is important to understand the influence and impact they have over the local area. “A great tip is to not underestimate the influence of the local councils or local authorities when you are doing infrastructure, it is very important and beneficial to have them on board,” Danielle says.
The third and last area Danielle mentions is the importance of being local, especially after Brexit. “After Brexit, there is a very high need for local content. A local supply chain, using local workers and local companies will bring benefits, not only in terms of credibility towards the authorities, but also in understanding how things get done.”
To keep an open mind
Even though there are a lot of commonalities in the way Swedish people and British people view the world, there are some differences in how things are done in the respective countries, something Danielle sees as a great opportunity. “I think it adds to the richness and the opportunity we have that we can complement each other. But I would say that sometimes, things here can seem to be moving more slowly than you might like. On the other hand, sometimes things can get done a lot quicker. It is a little bit case dependent, but if you come with an open mind, you will certainly be welcomed,” Danielle says and continues, “As a British person working for a Swedish company, I would say that if you are thinking of coming here, do not be put off by the current disruption that you might be reading about. I think the UK generally is a very welcoming place and very open to have people investing and doing business here. So, try to come and visit, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised,” Danielle says.
Year of establishment
Sweden: 1909 / UK: 2008
England: London, Ramsgate, Penzance, Barrow-in-Furness, Hexham
Wales: Pen y Cymoedd
SEK 158,847 million (£13.5bn)
Number of employees
20,000 in total, of which 350 in the UK