At Westenergy, the development of the utilisation rate and the well-being of staff are key factors in the operations of the waste incineration plant. In 2017, the plant also started preparing for more stringent environmental standards and for adaptation to legislative changes. Managing Director Olli Alhoniemi is pleased to announce the key issues and events in last year’s operations.
All in all, year 2017 passed very well. Our utilisation rate and efficiency were excellent, and we made a record for district heating and electricity production. The investments made during 2016 proved their worth both operationally and financially. Our facility is again in very good shape and the prime goal was to maintain the plant’s high utilisation rate and incineration capacity; and in that we succeeded well last year.
At present, the EU is preparing for the so-called Reference Document on Waste Incineration, BREF (Reference Document on Best Available Techniques), which defines, among other things, Member States’ environmental standards for the waste-to-energy utilisation, i.e. the amount of flue gas emissions and best practices. The emission regulations are becoming more stringent with the document, so we are now preparing for them. With our current technology, we may not be able to fully comply with the new stringent flue-gas treatment standards. Therefore, we have conducted a study on flue gas scrubbers. In 2017, we obtained an environmental permit for the construction of a flue gas scrubber, but after the BREF will be completed (presumably in 2019), the environmental permit requirements must be revised to the extent required by BREF. This means, among other things, checking the emission limits for flue gases. By investing in a flue gas scrubber, we can also increase our district heating capacity.
Our facility is again in very good shape.
In 2017, there were changes in the Public Procurement Act that are visible in our operating environment as well. In the Procurement Act, the operations of public administration companies in the market are restricted, and this affects our owner companies. The new regulations limit the issues that are covered by municipal waste management and transfer waste management to private companies. The importance of the new regulations for Westenergy and private consumers will be seen in the future. Currently, Parliament is also working on the Waste Act, which will more directly affect our operations, both as a public company and through the new recycling targets.
In decisions on waste incineration, we would like the decision-makers to consider that we are at the juncture of two industries: waste management and the energy sector. Although Westenergy is a critical part of Western Finland’s low-carbon and cost-effective waste management solutions, we also produce 42% of Vaasa’s district heating and electricity, which is equivalent to 8,000 household needs. Our energy production replaces the use of coal and oil. Waste incineration should therefore be considered as a whole when decisions are made.
At Westenergy, the development of the utilisation rate and the well-being of staff are key factors in the operations of the waste incineration plant.
The organisational changes made in 2016, as well as the transition to a shift plan with five teams, increased the staff’s work motivation. In 2017, we harvested the fruits of this renewal as well, and the year progressed more calmly. Our employees continue to make excellent endeavours towards achieving our goals. We are a small close-knit community, working together to maintain our work ability. I would like to thank our staff for their great work. Thanks to them, the entire year was successful.
Cooperation with our owner companies and the local energy company, Vaasan Sähkö, continued very well on all organisational levels. Now when we are preparing for strategic new changes, we are also reconsidering Westenergy’s ownership arrangements and discussing some potential new shareholders. In the operational area of ??our current owners, there is not enough waste generated to fulfil the capacity of our waste incineration plant. Therefore, there will be a position for a good new owner. Westenergy’s strategic changes also include the renewal of the financial solution, which was implemented during the year. In practice that means the reorganisation of all loans in more favourable terms. In these and other important decisions, the company’s board of directors plays an important role. That is why I would also like to thank them for their active work last year.
From 2018, we expect a very similar and positive year as 2017. A high utilisation rate is a constant issue for us and we will continue to drive our investments forward over the course of the year as we learn more about future legislative changes.