Pirjo Jantunen serves as Environmental Specialist for the energy utility Helen Ltd. in Finland, and as Chair of the World Energy Council’s Future Energy Leaders. She worked with BCC on sustainability reporting and stakeholder engagement. Pirjo talks about stakeholder engagement with BCC’s Mathias Pianowski and Willi Cornel.
Why is Helen Ltd. an interesting case for stakeholder involvement?
Helen is one of the top energy providers in Finland and has been awarded for its efficient production. But there is still a long way to go to become sustainable. Currently, we are renewing our production in order to meet our target of becoming carbon neutral by 2050 and to have 20 percent of renewables by 2020 – that’s an increase of approximately 11 per cent in four years. Since the beginning of 2015, Helen is operating independently as a limited company instead of being part of the city organization – that has been a huge change for us, which is still in progress and we want to shape together with our stakeholders.
Do you see the engagement as part of your corporate strategy?
At the moment, the energy industry is challenged by climate change and new, innovative actors. Therefore, in order to be competitive and mitigate climate change at the same time, stakeholder engagement needs to be integrated into our operations. We have to find new and sustainable solutions together with our stakeholders.
Can you give us an example?
We had three very different options to reach our goals. First one was to build a brand new multi-fuel combined heat and power plant that would use wood chips and hard coal as a fuel which would replace the existing coal-fired power plant. The second option was to modify existing coal-fired power plants so that they can utilize up to 40 percent of wood pellets. The third alternative is based on flexible, decentralized energy production. In this case, we would build a number of biomass-powered heating plants, solar heat, geothermal heat and heat pumps. In December 2015 the decision was made to continue with the decentralized model.
Were your stakeholders interested in discussing these options?
Yes. People and the media were very interested. The discussion with them has been vivid during recent years. We have been involving stakeholders intensively throughout the process and also modified some plans according to their wishes.
What do your stakeholders think about these options?
In their opinion, the company should replace fossil fuels, especially hard coal, with renewables, mostly solar and wind. Moreover, our stakeholders want us to be bold and practice more open communications. We are on the right track, but some are pushing us to speed up corporate change.
Have you assessed the environmental impacts of different options?
We have conducted environmental and social impact assessments. Results were included in the background material for stakeholders and the whole decision making process.
How can you involve people who are not much interested?
Stakeholders are willing to participate in multiple ways, including one-way communication such as awareness-raising as well as two-way communication forms like discussions. Active stakeholders like NGOs are easy to reach; they usually participate in our stakeholder workshops. Reaching citizens is far more difficult. Customer magazines are a popular method, however, that is only a one-way form of informing interest groups. We see power plant visits as a good way to inform the public about our operations and interact with citizens. I think it is also important to get different stakeholder groups at the same table, because it helps them to understand the diversity of interests.
We thank you very much!
Pirjo Jantunen is Environmental Specialist for the energy utility Helen Ltd. in Finland and Chair of the World Energy Council’s Future Energy Leaders.