SWEDEN Vattenfall gained two new board members on 27 April at an Annual General Meeting which was dominated by the sale of German lignite operations and the use of hard coal from Colombia.

The Annual General Meeting, AGM, agreed that a dividend would not be paid to the owner, the Swedish government, for 2015. In his address, Chairman of the Board Lars G Nordström described the challenges facing Vattenfall.

"The transition from a large-scale, generation-oriented business model to a small-scale, customer-oriented business model will have dramatic consequences for the industry and for Vattenfall, particularly when combined with historically low prices, energy generation which has not been fully predictable in some countries, erratic subsidies, and taxes which are not only high but whose structure is debatable to say the least. To say that all this, and more, makes this a challenging situation would be an understatement."

Climate neutral by 2050
In his address, Vattenfall's CEO Magnus Hall emphasized the importance of sustainability.

"It must be a natural, integral part of the business as a whole, from strategy and decision-making to day-to-day operations. Vattenfall must be a climate-neutral company by 2050. Clearly, everything we do must also ultimately help return the Group to a good level of profitability. This means, amongst other things, that we must continue with our cost-saving programme and critically review our investments."

"Vattenfall has a clear vision of the company it wants to be in the future. Our aim is to continue to drive the transition to a renewable energy system. By 2025 we must be a leading generator of renewable energy and, at the same time, offer attractive energy solutions to some 11 million customers."

Key role
The owner's representative, State Secretary Eva Lindström, also made reference to the structural transformation which the entire energy sector is currently undergoing.

"Vattenfall is going through a period of significant change and low electricity prices are also having a negative impact on the company. This transition must be achieved in a responsible way. As owners, we will analyze the proposed sale of the lignite operations carefully and come back with our decision once this process is complete. Vattenfall played a key role in the industrialization of Sweden in the 20th century and I am certain that it will play a key role in the 21st century as part of an innovative and sustainable industry." 

New board members
Hilde Tonne and Staffan Bohman were elected as new members of Vattenfall's Board. They replace Gunilla Berg and Håkan Buskhe who did not stand for re-election.

The remaining seven board members were re-elected at the AGM.

In the morning, employees and those attending the AGM at Arenastaden were met at the entrance by Greenpeace and the Dutch NGO PAX, amongst others, who were protesting against the sale of German lignite operations and the fact that Vattenfall was buying hard coal from the mining region of Cesar in Colombia.

Elsewhere in Stockholm environmental activists protested against the Swedish government and Vattenfall by abseiling down the Katarinahissen lift.

Continuous improvement
Lignite and hard coal from Colombia also dominated the Q&A session which was held after the AGM.

Vattenfall’s Martijn Hagens, Senior Vice President Business Area Customers & Solutions, together with Magnus Hall and the company's General Counsel Anne Gynnerstedt, answered questions over why, unlike Danish power company Dong, Vattenfall was still buying hard coal from the Cesar region of Colombia, where people were subjected to paramilitary abuses in the form of acts of violence or forced displacement between 1996 and 2006.

"We believe that the call to stop buying coal from certain mines impedes the opportunities for continuous improvement. We believe in taking responsibility as buyers, and have also signed an agreement with the Dutch government with a view to improving the social framework and the environmental conditions in the international coal supply chain. Together with other power companies, we have already made great strides in this field with the creation of the European organization Bettercoal, whose programmes are designed to assess mining operations and the environment and to make improvements where necessary."

Watch the AGM (in Swedish)

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