Vattenfall AB
Government enterprise
Industry Electric utility
Founded 1909 as Kungliga Vattenfallsstyrelsen
Headquarters Stockholm, Sweden
Key people
Magnus Hall (President and CEO)
Products Electricity generation, transmission and sales
Revenue Decrease 171.7 billion kr (2013) [1]
Decrease -6.4 billion kr (2013) [1]
Decrease -13.5 billion kr (2013) [1]
Number of employees
31,819 FTE[1] (2013)
Subsidiaries Nuon Energy (67%)

Vattenfall is a Swedish power company, wholly owned by the Swedish government. Beyond Sweden, the company generates power in Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, and the United Kingdom. In January 2016, Vattenfall announced that all its Swedish nuclear power plants, including the newer reactors, were operating at a loss due to low electricity prices and Sweden's nuclear output tax. It warned that it may be forced to shut all the nuclear plants down, and argued that the nuclear output tax should be scrapped.[2]

The company's name is Swedish for "waterfall", and is an abbreviation of its original name, Royal Waterfall Board (Kungliga Vattenfallstyrelsen).


Vattenfall (then called Kungliga Vattenfallsstyrelsen or Royal Waterfall Board) was founded in 1909 as a state-owned enterprise in Sweden.[3][4] From its founding until the mid-1970s, Vattenfall's business was largely restricted to Sweden, with a focus on hydroelectric power generation. Only in 1974 did the company begin to build nuclear reactors in Sweden (the Ringhals 1 and 2 reactors), eventually owning seven of Sweden's 12 reactors. In 1992, Vattenfall was reformed as the limited liability company Vattenfall AB.

In the years 1990 through 2009, Vattenfall expanded considerably (especially into Germany, Poland and the Netherlands), acquiring stakes in Hämeen Sähkö (1996), HEW (1999, 25.1% stake from the city of Hamburg), the Polish heat production company EW (2000, 55% stake), Elsam A/S (2005, 35.3% stake), and Nuon (2009, 49% stake).[3][5] In 2002 Vattenfall AB and its acquisitions were incorporated as Vattenfall Europe AG, making it the third-largest electricity producer in Germany.[3]

Following the expansion period, Vattenfall started to divest parts of its business in Denmark and Poland during the years following 2009 in a strategy to focus on three core markets: Sweden, Netherlands, and Germany. Write-downs on coal-fired and nuclear power plant assets in Germany and gas power plants in the Netherlands were necessary in a difficult market environment with increasing renewable energy market share and due to the German Nuclear power phase-out decision of 2011. In summer 2013 Vattenfall announced a writedown off the value of its assets by 29.7 billion SEK (4.6 billion USD).[6] A major part of these write-offs were attributed to Nuon Energy NV, a Netherlands-based utility that Vattenfall purchased at a 97 billion SEK (ca. 15 billion USD) price in 2009, but whose values was depreciating by 15 billion SEK (ca. 2 billion USD) since.[7] The gloomy market outlook of decreasing power prices in combination with increasing risks notably on the contintental market prompted the board to revise the group strategy by splitting its organizational structure into a Nordic part and a part with operations in continental Europe and the United Kingdom as of 2014. Some analysts have perceived this strategic review as a precursor to a partial retreat from continental European activities with a shift of focus towards activities in the Scandinavian market.[8] In this context and in response to a local referendum on re-municipilization of distribution grids, Vattenfall agreed on the sale of company-owned electricity and district-heat grids in Hamburg to the City of Hamburg in early 2014.[9] In each of the second quarters of 2015 and 2016, Vattenfall filed impairments of SEK 28 billion, mostly due to lignite power stations in Germany. Operational financials were satisfactory.[10]

Outside of Sweden, Vattenfall is known for forcing the Soviet government to publicly reveal the Chernobyl disaster. The Kremlin had tried to cover up the accident for a day, but elevated radiation levels at Vattenfall's Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant forced the Kremlin to admit the accident had occurred.[11]

Vattenfall's headquarters were moved to a new building in Solna, north of Stockholm, in autumn 2012
Vattenfall's old buildings in Råcksta were abandoned in autumn 2012. They are being converted into flats since.

Expansion beyond Sweden

Vattenfall used to own assets in Poland until their divestment in 2011. Here exemplarily a power station in Pruszków, near Warsaw.

In 2006, Vattenfall began production of the pilot carbon capture and storage (CCS) plant at Schwarze Pumpe, Germany. In 2007, the Lillgrund Wind Farm off the southern coast of Sweden was commissioned and began delivering electricity.

Vattenfall has power generation branches in Sweden, Germany, Poland, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Denmark, Finland; in Germany, Vattenfall is the electric utility for the states of Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg, Berlin, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, and Saxony.


As of 2009, Vattenfall generates electricity from fossil fuels (52%), nuclear power (25%), hydropower (21%), and "other sources" (wind power, biomass, waste) (2%).[12]

Some of Vattenfall's most notable power generation plants include the 110 MW Lillgrund Wind Farm off the coast of Malmö, Sweden, the world's largest[13] offshore wind farm at Thanet, UK, the nuclear reactors Brunsbuttel Nuclear Power Plant (67% ownership), Krummel Nuclear Power Plant (50% ownership), Brokdorf Nuclear Power Plant (20% ownership) in Germany, and the Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant and Ringhals Nuclear Power Plant in Sweden. The nuclear power stations of Brunsbüttel and Krümmel have been shut down permanently in response to a governmental order in summer 2011 after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

Vattenfall also operates biomass and other power plants in Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark.

Exit from German coal

Until 2016, Vattenfall owned lignite and hard coal-fired power stations, including the Jänschwalde Power Station, the Boxberg Power Station, the Lippendorf Power Station (owned in part) and the Schwarze Pumpe Power Station. In 2014, Vattenfall had a lignite turnover of €2.3 billion and a profit of €647 million, but later lost money on lignite as power prices decreased from 40 to 20 €/MWh.[14] On 30 September 2016, Vattenfall completed the sale of its German lignite facilities to the Czech energy group EPH and its financial partner PPF Investments.[15][16]

Nuclear generation

In January 2016 Vattenfall announced that its Swedish nuclear power plants, including the newer reactors, were operating at a loss due to low electricity prices and Sweden's nuclear output tax. It warned that if it was forced to shut the plants down, there would be serious consequences to Sweden's electricity supply, and argued that the nuclear output tax should be scrapped.[2]

In October 2016 Vattenfall began litigation against the German government for its 2011 decision to accelerate the phase-out of nuclear power. Hearings are taking place at the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in Washington DC and Vattenfall is claiming almost €4.7 billion in damages. The German government regards the action as "inadmissible and unfounded".[17]

Carbon intensity

Year Electricity
Production (TWh)
(Gt CO2)
kg CO2
kg CO2
2002 166 68.28 411
2003 160 71.47 448
2004 174 69.97 403
2005 175 71.77 410 86.7 5.8[18]
2006 165 74.5 450
2007 184 84.5 459
2008 178 81.72 459
2009 175 79.05 452
2010 93.7 416
2011 167 88.6 418
2012 179 85.0 400
2013 181.7 88.4 412

Car seatbelt

The development of the safety belt is often incorrectly credited to Saab or Volvo. Fatal car accidents were rapidly increasing in Sweden during the 1950s. When a study at Vattenfall of accidents among employees revealed that the majority of casualties came from car accidents, two Vattenfall engineers (Bengt Odelgard and Per-Olof Weman) started to develop the safety belt. Their work set the standard for safety belts in Swedish cars and was presented to Volvo in the late 1950s.[19]


Vattenfall's past expansion strategy has involved the acquisition of multiple brown coal (lignite)-fired power plants, which has been highly controversial in Sweden and Germany due to the fact that brown coal is among the dirtiest forms of electricity generation. In addition, brown coal is strip mined in a process that sometimes forces communities to relocate as mining fields expand.[20] It sold its brown coal assets in September 2016.[16]

According to Greenpeace, Vattenfall’s coal-fired power plants account for more than twice as much CO₂-emissions as the rest of Sweden combined, and, if counting their Swedish-owned but foreign-located plants as Swedish, would bring Sweden up to fourth most CO₂-emitting country, counting per capita.

In May 2009, Vattenfall was voted the winner of the 2009 Climate Greenwash Awards for "its mastery of spin on climate change, portraying itself as a climate champion while lobbying to continue business as usual, using coal, nuclear power, and pseudo-solutions such as agrofuels and carbon capture and storage (CCS)."[21] Vattenfall owns (or has owned) four of the "dirty thirty" most polluting power stations in Europe.

The first fire in the transformer of the nuclear power plant Krümmel (part owned with E.ON) in 2007 forced a closure of the power plant for over two years, while a short circuit in July 2009 in another transformer led to another closure. Due to these incidents the Prime Minister of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, Peter Harry Carstensen announced that this will be letzter Versuch (their last try) before complete closure of the facility.[22]

Vattenfall has been accused of skirting the line of illegality in its effort to maintain ownership of electrical power grids. Most recently, Vattenfall's efforts to maintain ownership of Hamburg's power grid by lobbying the ruling SPD have drawn criticism.[23]

In Germany, the largely successful Berlin Energy Table alliance united a number of NGOs and local groups initiating a Referendum on the recommunalization of energy supply in Berlin. The referendum took place on November 3, 2013, yet slightly missed the quorum. Just days ahead of the referendum, the Senate of Berlin however promised to match the citizens' initiative's key claim, regardless of the referendum's outcome: to transfer all end-user operations, which are currently driven by Vattenfall, to a public utility company (Stadtwerk) soon to be founded.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 "Annual Report 2013" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-05-19.
  2. 1 2 "Vattenfall seeks to return reactors to profitability". World Nuclear News. 8 January 2016. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  3. 1 2 3 "Group History". Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  4. Katarina Buhr; Anders Hansson (2011). "Capturing the stories of corporations: A comparison of media debates on carbon capture and storage in Norway and Sweden" (PDF). Global Environmental Change. 21: 336–345. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2011.01.021. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  5. "Vattenfall - press release". Cision Wire. Retrieved 23 February 2009.
  6. "Vattenfall writes down 4.6 bln USD, splits Operations". Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  7. "Nedskrivningen på 15 miljarder bara början". Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  8. "Handelsblatt on Vattenfall's potential retreat from Continental Europe". Retrieved 26 July 2012.
  9. "Handelsblatt on Vattenfall's sale of power and heat grids to Hamburg City". Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  11. "Chernobyl haunts engineer who alerted world". CNN Interactive World News. Cable News Network, Inc. 26 April 1996. Retrieved 28 April 2008.
  12. "Corporate Social Responsibility Report 2010" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-06-21.
  13. MacAlister, Terry (23 September 2010). "British firms miss out as world's biggest offshore windfarm opens off UK coast". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2010-09-23.
  15. "Vattenfall completes German lignite business sale" (PDF) (Press release). Stockholm, Sweden: Vattenfall. 30 September 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-06. Vattenfall has completed the sale of its German lignite business to the Czech energy group EPH and its financial partner PPF Investments.
  16. 1 2 "Vattenfall exits German coal unit as it seeks sustainable energy". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Agence France-Presse. 18 April 2016.
  17. "Showdown in Germany's nuclear phase-out". Clean Energy Wire (CLEW). Berlin, Germany. 10 October 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-24.
  19. Andréasson, Rune; Claes-Göran Bäckström (2000). The Seat Belt : Swedish Research and Development for Global Automotive Safety. Stockholm: Kulturvårdskommittén Vattenfall AB. pp. 9, 15–16. ISBN 91-630-9389-8.
  20. (Swedish)
  21. "Climate Greenwash Winner Revealed". Corporate Europe Observatory. Brussels, Belgium. 24 May 2009. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  22. Archived from the original on July 11, 2009. Retrieved July 9, 2009. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  23. Seifert, Dirk. "Legal – Illegal: Vattenfall – Gezielter Rechtsverstoß? Die Hamburger SPD schweigt". umweltFAIR. umweltFAIR. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
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