Permits for operation of the hydro power plants
The production of electrical energy at Holmen's wholly and partly owned hydro power stations requires a permit for water operations (rules under the Environmental Code), which includes environmental conditions. A review may be requested under the terms of the Environmental Code. Permits are held for all the power stations.
Production at wholly or partly owned hydro power plants in 2016 totalled 958 GWh (2015: 1 302 GWh) which was due to dry weather and low precipitation (production in a normal year approx. 1 110 GWh). Hydro power is a renewable, natural and sustainable energy form and consequently meets strict environmental requirements. Hydro power stations do not have any direct impact on the environment in normal operation. The Holmen Environmental and Energy Policy is applied in the company's wholly owned hydro power plants.
Disruptions to production
There were no disruptions in 2016 that affected availability at Holmen's hydro power stations.
The new legislation introduced in 2014 has been implemented via internal controls and reporting to the relevant County Administrative Boards. Holmen Energi has begun reporting in line with the risk classifications that the County Administrative Boards have to decide on under the new legislation. Operation and maintenance projects implemented during the year and any incidents are to be reported to the County Administrative Boards in early 2017. In 2016, Holmen Energi conducted checks and inspections in line with the energy industry guidelines for dam safety (RIDAS). The company has insurance cover for any damage to third parties downstream of dams in a joint dam liability insurance policy for the whole of Sweden. Holmen Energi has also begun reporting in line with the risk classifications the County Administrative Boards have to decide on under the new legislation.
A sluice gate drive was damaged on a sluice gate on the Viksjö dam. In a closing manoeuvre the sluice gate drive was crushed, the rack was bent and the steel structure split the concrete at its attachment. The likely case of this damage was a defective momentary switch. Remedial action is under investigation, and the sluice gate has been taken out of service until further notice. Another sluice gate is being used for regulation.
A sudden change of flow rate through the bypass sluice gate at the Holmen power plant resulted in the lowering limit at Grytsdammen dam not being reached and large numbers of pikeperch dying downstream of the power plant. The matter has been reported to the County Administrative Board. The sequence of events has been analysed, and some direct changes have been implemented to prevent anything similar happening in the future. Further measures are under investigation and will be implemented in 2017.
Environmental activities in 2016
The partly owned hydro power plants apply the environmental policy of the principal shareholder. Holmen Energi operates joint Water Regulation Associations with other stakeholders to deal with such matters as dam safety, water regulation and fisheries issues.
Emissions of carbon dioxide from regulated water storage reservoirs are low. There is oil in bearings and regulating systems for the machinery, and there is some risk of discharges to water. Protection and alarm systems are installed to minimise the risk of oil leaks. The oils used are vegetable oils or are in some other way environmentally sound.
Holmen employees and external contractors, which have environmental certification, operate and supervise the plants and manage hazardous waste.
In 2011, through a local initiative by landowners in the Municipality of Vindeln and a regulation reservoir collaboration group that included Holmen's Harsele power station, a project was launched to identify measures to achieve Maximum Ecological Potential (MEP) on the River Umeälven. This was in line with the EU Water Framework Directive.
Proposed measures corresponding to Good Ecological Potential, aimed at achieving environmental improvements in the River Umeälven, were not investigated.
The project has used surveys to identify measures that do not have a significant impact on power generation. The surveys involved electrofishing and inventories of bottom fauna, water plants and shoreline vegetation. Terrestrial and aquatic natural assets were also documented.
In addition, the project examined measures that do have an impact on energy generation. Impact assessments have been conducted for various scenarios of environmentally adapted flows – run-of-the-river power stations, flow control for spring floods, minimum flow to avoid zero flow, overflow into fishways, bypass channels and dry beds, and environmentally adapted water levels.
Tributaries that, under the Water Framework Directive, have not been judged to have Good Ecological Status and that have been general floating channels, were surveyed for biotopes and fish populations with the help of electrofishing. Almost 200 dams and 4000 road culverts were surveyed in the tributaries. Proposals for restoration work have been drawn up.
A next step in this process began in 2016 under the direction of Umeå University in what is known as the Juktå Project. This is aimed at devising cost-effective models that make a quantitative and qualitative contribution to raising environmental assets in dry beds with minimum flow with little or no loss of production. Various environmental measures will also be taken in the River Juktån, with later scientific follow-up. Holmen has a seat on the project's steering group.
Over the year, in partnership with some of Sweden's other energy producers and the Swedish Board of Fisheries, Holmen implemented research and operational measures to prevent the extinction of the eel. Together with technical infrastructure company Tekniska Verken in Linköping, Holmen Energi has implemented a trap and transport initiative for migrating eels ready to spawn, transferring the eels from the Glan and Roxen lakes to Motala Ström.
Environmental activities in 2017
2017 will see dam safety, structural and health & safety measures implemented at the wholly and partly owned plants.
Holmen is a major land owner and has the potential to develop its land holdings by establishing wind farms on its own sites with good wind conditions. Wind power has low operating costs, since it does not require the purchase of fuel, and production is free of carbon dioxide.
Along with the Eurofideme 2 investment fund, in 2014 Holmen built a wind farm at Varsvik, a few kilometres from its paper mill in Hallstavik. The turbines came on stream in autumn 2014 and annual production capacity is estimated at 165 GWh. Building the wind farm cost around SEK 650 million. Production in 2016, a year of light winds, totalled 147 GWh. Holmen's share of production is 50 per cent. The share of wind power in total electricity generation is continuing to increase in Sweden despite relatively low electricity and certificate prices. Holmen's strategy is to develop competitive projects that are profitable for the Group.
At Blodrotberget and Blackfjället in the Municipality of Örnsköldsvik, environmental permits were granted for wind turbines in 2013. The production potential in these areas is estimated at more than 500 GWh per year. In 2015, a power line permit was obtained for the connecting power lines, which means that the project is ready for construction to begin.
Environmental permits were obtained at Blåbergsliden in the Municipality of Skellefteå in 2016, and production potential today is estimated at around 350 GWh/year. The judgment has been appealed, and a ruling is expected in 2017.
In 2015, an application was submitted to the authorities for 30 wind turbines in Blisterliden in the Municipality of Skellefteå. Decisions on an environmental permit and power line concession are expected in 2017.
An 18 per cent stake in VindIn AB gives Holmen part ownership of the wind farms of Trattberget in the Municipality of Örnsköldsvik, Skutskär in the Municipality of Skutskär and Svalskulla in Närpiö, Finland. In total there are now 40 turbines generating electricity for Holmen and the other stakeholder companies. Taken together, VindIn's turbines are expected to produce around 305 GWh per year, with Holmen's stake currently equating to production of around 55 GWh per year. 2016 was generally a year of light winds in the Nordic region. Wind power production was below budget in 2016 at 265 GWh, with Holmen's share amounting to 47 GWh.
Holmen's peat field outside Örnsköldsvik was taken into use in 2009 and is harvested annually for energy purposes. The 2016 production season was notable for locally high levels of precipitation spread out over the greater part of the season, with production totalling 68 (74) GWh, slightly below the level for a normal year. Further seedling growing trials in peat for cultivation produced by the company took place on an expanded scale in 2016, with favourable results. The trials will continue in 2017 in order to yield a satisfactory reference result.