Customers generally have clear expectations of their electricity provider. Reliable delivery of electricity to homes and commercial buildings is, of course, the most important factor.
In addition, they need to have confidence that consumption is being accurately measured and then charged via clear and easily understandable billing. Vattenfall Eldistribution AB has addressed this challenge in two ways: It has established a thorough understanding of its customers’ needs, and it has developed significant expertise in the technology of the power industry, which, combined, have enabled the company to position itself as one of the leading companies in the market.
The company knows exactly what its customers are looking for and strives to offer top service. Its customer services team offers a free advisory service to help customers choose the contract that best meets their needs.
“Our customers want quality, stability, reliability, transparency and simplicity of service,” says David Ringmar, Director of Network Strategy and Development, who joined Vattenfall Eldistribution AB in 2009. “We offer outstanding customer support service with convenient opening hours. We provide this service in a number of languages and always endeavour to communicate with our customers in the language of their choice.”
The company is proud of its technological expertise and sees it as a key strength, which has resulted in a number of important developments. “Operations are more automized today,” explains Mr. Ringmar. “This has improved the customer experience with respect to both communications with our team and in consumption reporting.”
The company has developed a new smart grid application which can quickly identify failures and can also analyze data in order to predict maintenance requirements more efficiently. This work is continuing in conjunction with the modernization of the infrastructure, which is necessary to meet the increasing needs of customers.
Power distribution was established in Sweden around 100 years ago. Vattenfall Eldistribution AB built the power grid in Sweden, which grew over the years, and by the 1960s there was one comprehensive grid which extended across the length and breadth of the country.
In 1996 the electricity market was deregulated, but the distribution aspect remains a monopoly and is therefore still regulated by the authorities. Since 1996, there have been a number of mergers, slowly reducing the number of distribution companies, but a significant number remain.
An added complication for the market is the regulatory requirements, which, due to political issues, change on a regular basis. Over the past ten years, Vattenfall Eldistribution AB has emerged from being a group of several companies with at least three control centers in Sweden along with a wide range of core technologies and philosophies to its current status as one organization. “We are now one company with one philosophy,” emphasizes Mr. Ringmar. “It was a great journey.”
Wind power is the fastest-growing form of energy in Europe, which has brought new challenges to the grid power industry in respect of quality of distribution and the network itself. The grid in Sweden is divided into two distinct sections: central Sweden and the northern grid, where there are very few customers per kilometer of cable compared to other European countries.
Major investment in the aging infrastructure is now urgently required to meet continually increasing consumer demand and also the technical challenges of sustainable energy sources. There is an incentive regulatory scheme in place to support the renewal, and the level of investment has already increased significantly in the past couple of years.
“We see this as a great opportunity for the industry,” states Mr. Ringmar. “We have the chance to increase efficiency and improve our operational processes so that we can ultimately offer better services to our customers.”
Vattenfall Eldistribution AB currently employs approximately 800 staff in Sweden and boasts a turnover in the region of nine billion SEK. The company has great ambitions for the future and has a strategy encompassing both short-term and long-term goals.
In 2016, it plans to increase investment in technology. Following some issues in the quality of supply in the northern grid, Vattenfall Eldistribution AB aims to address these problems in the next twelve months and focus on delivering stable and reliable service to customers in that area.
It predicts that the industry will continue to see a decrease in the number of suppliers, which will provide opportunities for the remaining firms. Additionally there are new players coming into the market, such as capital suppliers who own grids, so the market is likely to change dramatically. “Some see pension funds as a threat,” comments Mr. Ringmar. “I see it as an opportunity.”
Over the next five to ten years, Vattenfall Eldistribution AB has established a clear aim of becoming the leading power distribution company in the market in terms of people, community, stakeholders and profitability, and already has a number of projects under way in order to achieve this vision.
The industry is highly dynamic, and Mr. Ringmar sees this as a positive situation. “The role of power distribution companies is likely to change,” he concludes. “There are constantly new opportunities opening up, such as to grow the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. This will keep us on our toes and challenge us in the years to come.”