Fortum Building First Global Electric Vehicle Charging Business

  • Finland’s largest energy company sees charging as its niche
  • Utility spent about a year working on strategy to enter China

Fortum Oyj is seeking to build a global electric-vehicle charging business and carve out a niche for itself in the energy system in the transition towards low carbon.

The Helsinki-based energy company is installing 1,000 charging points, with 500 that are rapid-charge designs, by the end of the year.

“We’re handling the EV charging business, that’s our niche,’’ said Markus Hoekfelt, head of Fortum’s charge and drive program, in an interview at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance summit in London.

Fortum has a long-term plan to only generate electricity from renewables, up from 64 percent last year. It has accumulated about $9 billion in cash and said in April that it plans to spend about 1 billion euros to install a gigawatt-sized portfolio of solar and wind.

It also acquired Info24 AB, a Swedish software developer with a focus on the so-called Internet of Things, in the same month to expand its EV charging and smart homes business.

The company has two sides to its business plan for car charging. The first is to own and operate the infrastructure, which at the moment is only set up in Norway. The second is to partner with energy companies for cloud-based service and software for processing payments for the power through mobile phones.

Fortum has linked with 13 utilities in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and the U.K., and it expects that number to surpass 20 by the end of next year. It plans to expand further in the near future with interest expressed in “Canada, Australia and everything in between.” It spent about a year working on a strategy to enter the Chinese market, according to Hoekfelt.

Fortum is also doing research and development in Norway to test parked electric vehicles combined with batteries as a source of power for balancing the grid. Over 100 charging stations and batteries are on a site, that will be running tests for local demand response and optimization.

“Counting all the vehicles in Norway, you have quite a big potential with 100,000 EVs,’’ Hoekfelt said. “If they were all used this way, there would be about 350 megawatts, you would be able to theoretically trade.’’

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