28.01.2019 | Not just a buzzword for Axpo
The considerate use of resources is important both economically and socially. This is also reflected in the corporate world. What does sustainability mean for an energy company like Axpo? CEO Andrew Walo explains the importance of sustainability at Axpo in an interview.
Andrew Walo, Axpo is the number 1 in Switzerland in renewables. How important to you is this form of energy?
Very important. In Switzerland, 60 percent of the electricity produced comes from hydro power. It’s the most important renewable energy and is also a key component of Axpo’s portfolio. We operate more than 60 run-of-river, storage and pumped-storage power plants. One of the most significant plants of late is the Linth-Limmern pumped-storage power plant. The once-in-a-generation project has been on the grid since the end of 2017.
Further evidence of the environmental dimension of sustainability is the fact that we have increased energy efficiency at our power plants, on our grids and among our customers by a total of 13,640 MWh. We are also promoting the environmental sustainability of our assets. At the new Etzel substation, for example, the climate-friendly insulating gas G3 is being used for the first time anywhere in the world, as a substitute for SF6.
Aside from hydro power, which renewable energies are to be found in Axpo’s Swiss portfolio?
Besides hydro power, we are also committed to energy generated from biomass. Although this form of energy is still niche, it’s a niche with potential. Axpo operates 15 fermentation plants and five composting sites across the whole of Switzerland. In 2018, we launched a pilot project in Chavornay in the canton of Vaud which involves storing biogas so that renewable electricity generated from biomass can be used when it is needed, around the clock. When it comes to the issue of storage, we have to keep innovating. The objective is to supply Swiss households with renewable electricity on a more constant and targeted basis.
Our subsidiary CKW is building solar power plants for private individuals and companies on an almost daily basis. One flagship project in 2018 was the solar power unit mounted on SC Kriens’ new football stadium. CKW is also involved in a wind farm on the Lindenberg, on the border between the cantons of Lucerne and Aargau.
«Hydro power is the most important renewable energy and also a key component of Axpo’s portfolio»
You’re talking specifically about your activities at home. How active is Axpo abroad?
In renewables, with our subsidiary Volkswind we’re a strong player in wind energy, along the whole value chain. We build wind power plants in locations where they produce more electricity because of the wind conditions.
In 2018 alone, we built five wind farms with 26 wind power plants in France. As well as building and operating plants, we also sell parts of the portfolio; in France, for instance, we sold four wind farms in 2018. In this way, we exploit the entire wind power value chain. In addition, between 2018 and 2020 the Unilever Group will be procuring the electricity for its plants in Italy from the southern Italian wind farm WinBis, which is owned by Axpo. Signing this contract signals the start of the “Axpo Green Energy” programme, a new kind of certification for renewable energies in Italy.
Axpo has managed to retain the Gold standard in the EcoVadis sustainability ratings, placing it among the top 5 percent of all companies rated. Are ratings like this important to you?
I was delighted with this award, because it acknowledges the achievements of our employees in the area of sustainability. EcoVadis is an established rating, so it is also important to our customers, who are increasingly expecting their business partners to have good sustainability ratings. This is particularly true of origination customers in Europe.
It’s not just at the economic and environmental level that sustainability matters. How important is social sustainability?
We attach great importance to ethical business conduct: right now, we’re rolling out a code covering this at our business partners. In the last financial year, as much as 60 percent of our order volume was processed through business partners who have signed up to this code. We want to increase this share to 90 percent by the 2020/21 financial year.
How does Axpo make a contribution to society?
Axpo supports over 200 different organisations, institutions and projects, which are committed to culture, the environment or young and disabled sporting talent. For more than ten years, we’ve been a partner of PluSport, the umbrella organisation for disabled sport in Switzerland. We stepped up this cooperation in 2018 and are now the main sponsor of the PluSport Day. This day of sport is held annually in Magglingen and is aimed at children and adults with disabilities. The event is of great personal im-portance to me. I help to organise and run it each year along with 50 other Axpo colleagues.
The focus of Axpo’s commitment to sustainability is on the business view and all the related strategic and operational activities. However, Axpo is also part of the Swiss economy and Swiss society. Based on this broad understanding of sustainability, Axpo is committed to the following six fields of action and is working to achieve the targets set for each one:
More in the Sustainability Report 2017/18