A “defensive victory”
For VEO’s Power Generation unit, 2020 can be describe as a victory – a victory played on the defence, but a victory none the less. The year started off with a solid order book in all businesses: hydropower, engine and hybrid power, and expert services. 2020 was going to be record-breaking, in every way. However, when the pandemic hit globally in Q2, operations moved into survival mode. Luckily, business eventually normalised, ending the year on a high note.
A record amount of hydro commissionings
For VEO’s hydropower business, 2020 was, in fact, historically record-breaking: Last year, VEO commissioned nine hydro projects, connecting a total of eleven turbine generators to the grid. The execution of these demanding international projects was complicated by the travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus. As borders closed and public transport was no longer an option, VEO’s travelling site personnel faced the uncertainty, and therefore most of the business travel was done by car, all the way from Finland. More time on the road meant scarcer resources and personnel stretched thin:
“I want to thank our people, particularly those who travelled last year. They were tough – they kept going despite the risk, the endless corona tests, and quarantines. Without their devotion and courage, we would not have been able to deliver on our promises and be where we are today”, thanks Jari Vataja, Vice President, Power Generation.
Adapting to change, delivering as promised
Adapting to a changed reality also meant tough times in the home office, as travellers had to be supported in crossing borders. Constantly changing regulations were followed, new systems were developed, new paperwork managed and handled. Many customer projects were delayed or pushed forward by factors outside of VEO’s influence, which resulted in renewed time schedules and resource allocations. But through all this, VEO kept its promises:
“We delivered everything as promised to our customers. We adapted to the situation and learned to be patient. We sharpened our project management, become more efficient and reacted to changes quicker than ever before”, says Vataja.
Two large hydro plant modernisations in Sweden
VEO’s turnover in hydropower was strong in 2020, but the realities of the pandemic affected project profitability. As energy prices dropped last year with a lowered electricity demand, energy investments became unprofitable in many markets, while others still held their own. The Finnish hydro market, being competitive and small, continued to be challenging in 2020. In Norway, hydropower investments were stable, still showing great potential for the future. Last year’s highlights came from the Swedish hydropower market, which continues to grow. In Sweden, VEO signed contracts for two large hydro plant modernisations, with expectations for more:
“With these deals, our foothold in Sweden is strengthened further. We have a strong relationship with our two main customers in Sweden and aim to invest more resources in the Swedish market in the years to come”, Vataja relates.
A positive end to a challenging year in engine power
For VEO’s largest customers in engine and hybrid power, 2020 was a challenge, which reflected on VEO’s business both in terms of orders and turnover. The coronavirus heavily affected the market, which, however, luckily made a positive turn in the end of the year:
“Considering the circumstances, we did well in our engine and hybrid power business last year”, says Vataja.
Doing the right thing
Looking back at 2020, Vataja is happy the year is over, although it came with many lessons. Despite having mixed feelings of the year in general, he remembers fondly the team spirit and the relentlessness of VEO’s personnel. A particular moment that has stayed in his mind, was when the borders to Norway were about to close and Vataja chose to pull home VEO’s guys from site, risking repercussions from the client:
“The decision was wrong in terms of our business, but right for our people. You must remember that our people are our business. Without them, we have nothing to offer to our customers. Our guys returned to site a few weeks later, and for that I take my hat off to them. I am grateful for the results we delivered, considering the circumstances. The fight is still not over, but we can see better times ahead.”
In the words of our employees
“Last year, I needed to travel four times to Norway for commissioning. Going on a journey as the world shut down because of the pandemic was a little scary as the situation was new and included uncertainty. Because there was no air traffic, we set off by car and ship. However, everything was well planned, so all the commissions and test runs went smoothly and safely. I’m sure that these trips will not be easily forgotten, thanks to all special circumstances caused by the coronavirus and the quarantines in both countries.”
Jukka Nurmi, Technical Expert
“The exceptional world situation caused astonishment, concern and uncertainty about the safety of both oneself abroad and close relatives in Finland. However, the best thing of the year was that despite the twists and turns, we honoured our contracts and got the work done.
It was also great to see how the atmosphere remained positive on site, and that the exceptional circumstances further increased the team spirit between the different actors.”
Jouko Linjamäki, Technical Expert