Why should a housing company build energy production? For Jon Leo Rikhardsson, CEO of HSB Södermanland and initiator of Sweden’s first large solar park, the answer is simple: because it benefits the members, of course.
– Now the high price of electricity has also shown that we were absolutely right in our decision.
In the summer of 2020, what was then Sweden’s largest solar park was inaugurated on old farmland outside Strängnäs in Sörmland. But it was not an energy company that was behind the initiative; instead, the housing cooperative HSB, in collaboration with EnergiEngagemang, was behind the park.
– For the sake of the environment, we had been putting solar panels on the roof for years, but we realized that if we wanted to make a big difference, we needed to take a bigger approach. To make an impact on a larger scale, we needed thousands of solar cells, not just fifty here and a hundred there,” says Jon Leo Rikhardsson.
Sure enough, a 35-hectare solar park was built outside Strängnäs with a production of 13 000 000 kWh, equivalent to the electricity consumption of almost 5 000 apartments. And besides the environmental aspect, there was an important reason for the decision.
– We wanted to create green member benefits. We saw that the change in the electricity market created a risk for our members, and with this park we could reduce that risk and give our members a long-term stable electricity price, while taking responsibility for creating green electricity production.
Correct in its analysis
But when the idea took off, the price of electricity was at its lowest in over a decade and the idea of building electricity generation to create stable electricity prices for housing associations was not easy to get traction. Today, however, when electricity prices in some parts of the country have more than doubled during the fall, it is easy to see that HSB was right in its analysis.
– A lot of people thought our decision was risky, but we have already proved our thesis because we have a 39 øre electricity price while the market is High Chaparral. The fact that our model, which is not primarily based on earning money but on creating member benefits, is already having an impact is awesome and gives us a boost.
Biggest again in 2022
But it does not stop there. The interest in the park, both from external and internal parties, is so great that HSB, together with EnergiEngagemang, plans to expand the park by 50 percent already in the summer of 2022.
– EnergiEngagemang has been the driving force in taking this from idea to finished park. We do this in a partnership where we talk openly about all aspects of the decisions and where we both want to do the very best at all times. I really appreciate that about them.
And in the long term, Jon Leo Rikhardsson’s vision is for HSB to continue building similar facilities in many more places in southern Sweden to benefit both its members and the national electricity system.
– Our goal has never been to be the biggest, we just happened to be, and I’m just happy if someone else tries to build even bigger. Of course, it is good that there are small producers of solar electricity as well, but it is these large parks that are needed to make a difference.