Wind Directions Interview: Øystein Løseth, CEO of Vattenfall, on innovation and his company’s plans to invest through the crisis
“It’s tremendous to think what we have achieved both in onshore and offshore wind”. Sarah Azau speaks to Øystein Løseth, CEO of Vattenfall, on innovation and his company’s plans to invest through the crisis.
Why did you decide to get involved in wind energy?
After a decade in the oil & gas industry, I made the switch to renewables in the mid 90s. I decided to get involved in the industry as I recognized at an early stage the great potential of renewables.
It was a very exciting period that opened up job opportunities in wind energy, biomass and hydropower. At the time there was a big push to attract those with transferable skills from other industries and I was fortunate enough to make the leap. It’s tremendous to think what we have achieved both in onshore and offshore wind. I’ve been lucky enough to see the potential of renewables translate into a commercially successful and rapidly growing industry.
In what ways do you think the wind energy sector needs to be more innovative?
There is a significant need to continually drive innovation to make the industry even more of a commercial success. In particular, reducing levelised energy costs is a priority. A major part of this is ensuring we maximise opportunities to reduce costs and promote effi ciencies associated with the development, construction and operations & maintenance phases of our wind farms.
Offshore, this means investing in R&D and building bigger more effi cient turbines with lower costs. We need to see greater construction and O&M availability through technological advancements that allow us to build and maintain our wind farms in the most challenging of conditions while still conforming to the most stringent health & safety protocols.
Delivering this type of innovation in wind energy is essential, as at present Governments across Europe are making tough decisions about the future of market mechanisms to support the industry. In Vattenfall we fully accept the need to bend the cost of electricity generated by renewables to the consumer and make it even more competitive with other forms of low carbon electricity generation. Within this, innovation has a significant role to play in boosting confidence among Governments in relation to the financial attractiveness of renewables and demonstrating the bright future it has if the right level of support is in place.
How has the financial crisis impacted the wind energy industry? And can the industry make a difference to national economies in turmoil? How?
Like all businesses, Vattenfall has not been impervious to the effects of the financial crisis. However, we recently announced an ambitious plan to invest €4bn over the course of the next four years in our renewables business. As part of this we are progressing ambitious projects like the recently consented 256 MW Pen y Cymoedd onshore wind farm, offshore clusters in the form of the 288 MW DanTysk and 576 MW Sandbank offshore wind farms, and large-scale offshore projects such as the 7,200 MW East Anglia Offshore Wind – a 50:50
joint venture with ScottishPower Renewables.
These projects represent a sizeable proportion of wind energy projects under development in Europe and bring with them jobs, investment and economic growth at a time when national economies are still feeling the after effects of the financial crisis. What must be made clear is that our continued investment is contingent on the appropriate market mechanisms being in place in each of the countries within which we operate. Without this the risks associated with developing wind energy will increase, not only putting pressure on developers but also the whole supply chain. ■
Who is Vattenfall?
Vattenfall is one of Europe’s largest generators of electricity and the largest
producer of heat. The Vattenfall Group has approximately 34,700 employees.
The Parent Company, Vattenfall AB, is 100% owned by the Swedish
state. Vattenfall owns and operates energy assets across Sweden, Germany,
Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Poland and the UK.
Vattenfall has been an EWEA member since 2007.
Read the full September issue of Wind Directions.