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Upstream

11 Octo­ber 2018

By bund­ling elec­tri­ci­ty pro­cu­re­ment, Swiss Prime Site is making an active con­tri­bu­ti­on to its envi­ron­men­tal balan­ce. This year, the com­pa­ny began focu­sing on hydro ener­gy, with a posi­ti­ve impact on both its CO2 balan­ce and its pro­fi­ta­bi­li­ty.

Any com­pa­ny, such as Swiss Prime Site, that makes a com­mit­ment to sus­tai­na­bi­li­ty must also be very spe­ci­fic in its imple­men­ta­ti­on; for instan­ce, a reduc­tion in COemis­si­ons. This is why the real estate deve­lop­ment com­pa­ny uses ener­gy from Swiss and European hydro­power for its pro­per­ties. It is pro­cu­red cen­tral­ly by the sus­tai­na­bi­li­ty experts of group com­pa­ny Win­ca­sa via the elec­tri­ci­ty exchan­ge. How does this work? And how does the com­pa­ny ensu­re suf­fi­ci­ent sup­ply? We went on a walk with Roman Fehr, pro­ject mana­ger for sus­tai­na­bi­li­ty at Win­ca­sa, to find out.

You can­not talk about ener­gy in a mee­ting room. So we meet Fehr at the Lim­mat dam in Höngg ins­tead. Here, just a short walk from the Prime Tower, is an impres­si­ve demon­stra­ti­on of the power of water, which accounts for 60% of all elec­tri­ci­ty gene­ra­ted in Switz­er­land. Water is ahead of all other sources of rene­wa­ble ener­gy in Euro­pe. Its big advan­ta­ge is that it gene­ra­tes con­stant ener­gy in run-of-river plants and thus covers basic requi­re­ments. One such power sta­ti­on stands in Höngg. Hydro­power is also indis­pensable in pro­vi­ding reser­ve power and covering peak peri­ods. It is a high­ly reli­able source of ener­gy and cru­ci­al to the much-dis­cus­sed ener­gy tran­si­ti­on.

Swiss Prime Site knows this very well and reli­es on elec­tri­ci­ty from Swiss and European hydro­power. For all its pro­per­ties? «Cer­tain­ly, that is our goal», Fehr con­firms. «At the moment, 59% of Swiss Prime Site pro­per­ties run on clean ener­gy. That means all pro­per­ties whe­re this is cur­r­ent­ly pos­si­ble. The remai­ning buil­dings can­not cur­r­ent­ly access the libe­ra­li­sed ener­gy mar­ket, as they con­su­me less than 100 MWh per year. So the smal­ler moni­to­ring sta­ti­ons are not part of our cen­tra­li­sed port­fo­lio. Not yet.» In 2009, the elec­tri­ci­ty mar­ket was libe­ra­li­sed for lar­ge-sca­le con­su­mers, which can now purcha­se their own power. Dis­cus­sions about a more com­pre­hen­si­ve libe­ra­li­sa­ti­on are still ongo­ing. Such an exten­si­on would give Swiss Prime Site grea­ter room for mano­eu­vre.

Water is ahead of all other sources of rene­wa­ble ener­gy in Euro­pe.

We make our way over the Wer­din­sel and walk along the Lim­mat towards the power sta­ti­on. Fehr keeps men­tio­ning the term «poo­ling». He is refer­ring to the purcha­sing pool – all pro­per­ties and every elec­tri­ci­ty meter for which Win­ca­sa buys ener­gy on the mar­ket on behalf of Swiss Prime Site. The pro­per­ty manage­ment com­pa­ny does not make the­se purcha­ses direct­ly, but via Swenex, the Swiss Ener­gy Exchan­ge, an inde­pen­dent ener­gy ser­vices com­pa­ny that moni­tors the mar­ket con­stant­ly and buys elec­tri­ci­ty from the elec­tri­ci­ty exchan­ge based on demand and in coor­di­na­ti­on with the owners and Win­ca­sa. Struc­tu­red elec­tri­ci­ty pro­cu­re­ment – ano­t­her term that Fehr uses fre­quent­ly. «Essen­ti­al­ly, we are alrea­dy buy­ing power for 2022», he exp­lains. «The mar­ket makes this pos­si­ble. Such for­ward con­tracts allow us to plan for the long term and mini­mi­se risk. You can com­pa­re this with a port­fo­lio of modern finan­ci­al pro­ducts. At the moment, the pri­ce of elec­tri­ci­ty is rising. Buy­ing ahead of time bene­fits us, sin­ce our requi­re­ments are far from low. What we buy for our pool is giga­watt hours», says Fehr. The advan­ta­ges are obvious: the more elec­tri­ci­ty purcha­sed, the bet­ter the con­di­ti­ons. Pri­va­te con­su­mers can bare­ly ima­gi­ne the bulk dis­counts invol­ved.

In fact, the con­cept of «struc­tu­red elec­tri­ci­ty pro­cu­re­ment» is dif­fi­cult for non-experts to grasp. It invol­ves buy­ing a pro­duct that does not yet exist. «Ulti­mate­ly, we tra­de in paper», Fehr ela­bo­ra­tes. «In this respect, the elec­tri­ci­ty exchan­ge is qui­te simi­lar to finan­ci­al mar­kets and tra­di­tio­nal com­mo­di­ty exch­an­ges. Tog­e­ther with the owner, we have worked out a clear stra­te­gy that says, for examp­le, for 2018 we want to buy 90% of the requi­red power today, for next year 60%, for the year after 40%, and so on. This stra­te­gy is based on the mar­ket. If we anti­ci­pa­te an enor­mous pri­ce hike in the future, we pro­cu­re more elec­tri­ci­ty in advan­ce. But we con­sult Swenex befo­re any such deci­si­on. They are the experts. Based on our input, they always know how much power we will requi­re. The most important part of this pro­cess is to watch the mar­ket and buy at the right time. Of cour­se, the per­fect timing beco­mes clear only in retro­spect. But fin­ding the best pos­si­ble timing is what opti­mal ener­gy pro­cu­re­ment is about. This does not mean, howe­ver, that we buy the ent­i­re volu­me at once. The aim is to spread the risk of a pre­ma­tu­re or late purcha­se, and thus keep it small.»

You can­not talk about ener­gy in a mee­ting room. So we meet Fehr at the Lim­mat dam in Höngg ins­tead.

What role does Win­ca­sa play in this? «As a real estate ser­vice pro­vi­der, we are an inter­me­dia­ry bet­ween Swiss Prime Site, the owner, our pro­per­ty manage­ment and the ener­gy pro­cu­rer. Our task is to coor­di­na­te work flows and opti­mi­se exi­sting pro­ces­ses.» While this may sound abstract, it can be very con­cre­te in prac­tice. Take invoi­cing, for examp­le: «Our part­ners were com­ple­te­ly unpre­pa­red at first», Fehr recounts. «It was important to us and the mana­gers of the indi­vi­du­al pro­per­ties that con­sump­ti­on and other major items were listed on the invoices. They had to be itemi­sed to ensu­re that the ser­vice cost accounts could be exp­lai­ned plau­si­b­ly. This was a long pro­cess that requi­red a gre­at deal of coor­di­na­ti­on. Ent­i­re parts of the invoi­cing soft­ware had to be adap­ted to our requi­re­ments. We felt qui­te clear­ly that we were in a pionee­ring posi­ti­on, even though the elec­tri­ci­ty mar­ket has been libe­ra­li­sed for near­ly a deca­de. Ulti­mate­ly, we found a solu­ti­on that works for ever­yo­ne.» Three years into the part­nership, Fehr and his three-per­son team have estab­lished all the rele­vant pro­ces­ses, but the­re is still a lot to do. «We are con­stant­ly working on advan­cing our pro­ces­ses and making them more effi­ci­ent», Fehr exp­lains. And the­re are ple­n­ty of spe­cial situa­ti­ons that keep him and his col­leagues on their feet. The sale of a pro­per­ty – and thus the loss of an elec­tri­ci­ty meter from the purcha­sing pool – requi­res orga­ni­sa­ti­on.

Of cour­se, the­re will always be com­pa­nies that look at pri­ces first and fore­most. But Swiss Prime Site lives up to its respon­si­bi­li­ty.

We reach the power plant. It is an oran­ge buil­ding with a tur­bi­ne and a rake screen. What role will hydro­power play in the future? What hap­pens if elec­tri­ci­ty pri­ces con­ti­nue to rise? Is it not likely that many com­pa­nies will switch to nuclear power, which is even che­a­per? «Elec­tri­ci­ty in gene­ral is beco­m­ing more expen­si­ve at the moment», Fehr ans­wers. «This also affects nuclear power, not just rene­wa­ble ener­gies. Thanks to our activi­ties, howe­ver, we have redu­ced our purcha­sing expen­ses con­si­der­a­b­ly, which gives us a com­pe­ti­ti­ve advan­ta­ge. But end­less opti­mi­sa­ti­on with a dis­re­gard for envi­ron­men­tal aspects is not com­pa­ti­ble with our stra­te­gy. Our con­si­de­ra­te approach has achie­ved qui­te a lot. Of cour­se, the­re will always be com­pa­nies that look at pri­ces first and fore­most. But Swiss Prime Site lives up to its respon­si­bi­li­ty. I am not awa­re of many other com­pa­nies that focus so con­sistent­ly on sus­tai­na­bi­li­ty and are even wil­ling to pay a pre­mi­um in the short term to achie­ve it. In the long term, the invest­ment always pays off.»