Nivos Oy, a member of Local Power, has won the Climate Achievement of the Year award. CEO Esa Muukka says that the win foreshadows change in electricity markets: in the future customers will hold the reins.
When Nivos Oy’s daughter company Mäntsälän Sähkö Oy invented the cooperation model to recycle waste heat back to district heat network, it was not because they wanted to save the world. The competition was getting harder and the company needed to come up with something new. The last motivator for the project was the rise of tax for natural gas.
Now the heat which originates in the server centres of Russia’s biggest search engine company, Yandex, is used to generate district heat for Mäntsälä. The recovery plant that has been built in the data centre is generating 20 gWh district heat per year. That amount of heat is enough to keep 1000 houses warm throughout the seasons.
In addition to Nivos’ original idea, Yandex’s eagerness to carry out the project was crucial. The project would not have been possible without cooperation.
“These solutions are not solutions only by energy companies, but by customers as well. Energy companies have a certain role in carrying out the projects. Obviously we are really flattered that our work is seen as important”, Muukka says.
There's no going back
Muukka says that the best word to describe the operational environment of local energy companies is ‘sad’.
“The main problem is that political decision-making is unpredictable. The risk that a company takes when investing has to be manageable. Otherwise these risks won’t be taken. This is why no one is investing in power plants right now, risks are not manageable.”
However, Muukka also understands politicians. The energy sector is in the middle of transition, and predicting the future is as difficult in the parliament as it is in energy companies.
One thing is for sure, says Muukka: there is no going back to the past. The energy sector is going towards a model where customers buy what they want. A customer chooses which kind of energy solutions he/she wants, and energy companies have to abide by their wishes.
Muukka says that it is possible to adapt to changes as long as one keeps an open mind.
“This is a new situation in the energy sector, which has taken everything for granted for a very long time. Energy business has suddenly become risky business. Every other business has that already.”
A drop in the ocean
Saving the world should not be forgotten either.
A project that started from commercial necessity has decreased emissions of Nivos’ district heat by 40 %. Locally notable reduction may not be pivotal globally, but at least it’s one drop in the ocean.
“We would achieve nothing if everyone thought that this does not matter. We have the know-how in the energy sector and therefore also the responsibility to think of what can be achieved with it” says Muukka.
Every single decision takes us in the right direction. Therefore Muukka believes that in the end it’s the customers who have the power to change the energy system. Customers’ wishes and decisions force companies to modify their business accordingly.
“Choices of customers either force us to join the development or die away. And if we die away in that situation, then we had it coming.”