Vattenfall explains offshore R&D cuts

SWEDEN: On the same day as Vattenfall announced the appointment of new CEO Magnus Hall, it also revealed cuts to its research and development (R&D) budget. Speaking to Windpower Monthly, Vattenfall's head of R&D Nordic Karl Bergman explained the changes and how they would affect the business.

Vattenfall's "realignment" of its research projects comes through cuts to its planned five-year wind investment by 46%. Ostensibly this is in response to "tough markets".

Bergman said that this will have an effect on the company's research relating to its wind business, with a shift away from projects aimed at growth. Instead funds will be shifted towards programmes that are geared towards project servicing.

"We are really looking to take care of what we have. The main focus of this is development of more cost-efficient maintenance programmes," he said.

"For example, we have a number of wind projects operating in cold, northern conditions, so we are working on measures to improve their efficiency."

But there will be cuts to projects that require new investment. Offshore research will bear the brunt of this shift, with Bergman saying the company will be more careful over offshore R&D investment.

It is yet to be decided exactly where the changes will be made. However it is likely that environmental research may take some of the brunt. He said Vattenfall is looking to end its research into the protection of marine mammals from piling activities.

"The project will be run until its close but will not be continued beyond that. That is more the way these changes will work rather than stopping projects immediately," said Bergman.

Targeted investment

However, the cuts will not affect all offshore wind investment, with the developer signalling its intent to remain part of the UK's offshore wind accelerator programme for example.

There are areas related to wind power where the company will not just be maintaining its investment, but will actually be increasing it. Wind measurement was flagged up by Bergman as an example. This includes both methods to improve currently operating projects and the more effective siting of new projects.

On announcing its plans to reassess its R&D programme, Vattenfall said that the reforms would be likely to include a number of redundancies. However, Bergman reassured that the majority of these cuts would come from thermal power R&D, with little or no job cuts for wind.

While the changes will effect the company's wind division, it is expected to get off lightly compared with some of the company's other sectors. Bergman said the company is still planning to increase the share of wind in its portfolio over the long term.

Although these changes to R&D were announced on the same day as the appointment of a new CEO, Bergman was keen to stress that the two were unconnected, with Magnus Hall not taking up his position until October.