Vattenfall has a history going back over 100 years. This is something to be proud of, and offers a lot to learn from. We played an important part in the building of a prosperous and modern Sweden. We were not just owned by society, we were an integral part of it. There are many stories to tell from the company's start right down to today.

The history and heritage of Vattenfall

Life-saving on a pole (in Swedish)

Video of the month: 
Life-saving on a pole

The revolution of electricity

Articles

In 1882, Thomas Alva Edison switched on the electrical current at the Pearl Street Station in New York. However, there remained a number of problems for the industry to solve. A Swede was one of those who formulated the answer.

The entry of electricity into the home changed the way people live forever. Electric lighting changed the daily rhythm of everyday life. And in the home, heavy tasks disappeared from household work, which was of huge significance, not least for women.

In 2015, it will be the 100th anniversary of the electrification of the Malmbanan railway. That was the first stage in the continued electrification of the railways. But it was not obvious from the start that Vattenfall would be responsible for providing electricity for the Railways.

Thanks to an intensive educational and information campaign by Vattenfall and others, the Swedish countryside was electrified. But it was local distribution associations who took financial responsibility for the development.

Electric heating

It was only prior to the deregulation of the electricity market that marketing and advertising first became crucial for Vattenfall. The 'två hål i väggen' (two holes in the wall) campaign had enormous impact with the public. However, publicity and information campaigns were nothing new.

The attitude of electricity customers to electricity supply has changed from having been a momentous life-changing event when electrification began, to becoming a matter of course when you press a button. But for a long time electricity bills were difficult and obscure documents that created great frustration.

Images

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Hissmofors power plant
Hissmofors power plant

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The demonstration bus visits the countryside
The demonstration bus visits the countryside

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The demonstration bus is coming to town
The demonstration bus is coming to town

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A bow light at Näs lumber mill
A bow light at Näs lumber mill

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Hällsjön power station
Hällsjön power station

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A chairman, an assembler and an engineer are deliberating
Vattenfall gives advice to a local distribution association

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Propaganda bus
Propaganda bus

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The electric plough
The electric plough

Videos

Commercial: Två hål i väggen - tatueringen
Commercial: Två hål i väggen - tatueringen
Commercial: Två hål i väggen - gymmet
Commercial: Två hål i väggen - gymmet
Elvärme i villor och fritidshus (in Swedish)
Elvärme i villor och fritidshus
Vebacka och Eltomta (in Swedish)
Vebacka och Eltomta
Ram-el (in Swedish)
Ram-El
Jimi Hendrix på Gröna Lund 1968 (in Swedish)
Jimi Hendrix på Gröna Lund 1968
Så ska vi ha't (in Swedish)
Så ska vi ha't

From hydro power to solar cells

Articles

Emerging industry and railways played a major role in determining the location of Vattenfall's first hydroelectric plants. Over the course of a few years three gigantic and architecturally fascinating plants were built. Vattenfall's pioneering plants.

Many of the large hydropower plants were built in the wilderness. Construction required a huge workforce – for a limited time. This led to the rapid growth of new communities, which in most cases were dismantled once construction was complete.

Both during and after the Second World War, the demand for electricity increased dramatically. All forecasts were exceeded. Hydroelectric power now had to be expanded at a furious pace. This was also possible thanks to the water rights that Vattenfall had acquired with foresight much earlier.

There was huge optimism for the future in Sweden after the Second World War and confidence in Swedish technical solutions was strong. It was in this environment that 'the Swedish line' emerged. How Sweden could benefit from the promising nuclear power.

When the development of nuclear power began, Vattenfall experienced a boom in new construction. As during the hydroelectric era, construction proceeded at a rapid rate. The work sites at Ringhals and Forsmark were the largest in the Nordic region at the time.

It took many years before wind power went from being just a promising resource to being an established energy source. Sweden's first pilot project literally ended with a bang. However, the time was right for this form of energy – today, Vattenfall is one of the world's largest producers of wind energy.

When Vattenfall realised in the mid 1950s that the expansion of hydroelectric power was coming to an end, the company started looking at alternative ways of producing electricity. The main candidates were initially oil and nuclear power. But the oil crises and the nuclear phase-out decision upset everything.

Images

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Olide power plant under construction
Olide power plant under construction

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Workers' huts in Porjus
Workers' huts in Porjus

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The river Ume älv
The river Ume älv

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The river Ångermanälven
The river Ångermanälven

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Ågesta nuclear combined heat and power plant
Ågesta nuclear combined heat and power plant

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Stadsforsen power plant
Stadsforsen power plant

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Reactor fuel cap
Reactor fuel cap

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A wind power plant at Humlekärr
A wind power plant at Humlekärr

Videos

Det hände 1955 (in Swedish)
Det hände 1955
Dags för kärnkraft (in Swedish)
Dags för kärnkraft
Naturgasen är här (in Swedish)
Naturgasen är här
Den nya sjön (in Swedish)
Den nya sjön
Krafttag i kristid (in Swedish)
Krafttag i kristid
Klart Forsmark (in Swedish)
Klart Forsmark
Ringhals - kärnkraft på Västkusten (in Swedish)
Ringhals – kärnkraft på Västkusten
Porjus – Nämforsen - Hölle (in Swedish)
Porjus – Nämforsen - Hölle

Power to the people

Articles

Initially electricity distribution was characterised by competition and virtually a 'wild west' situation. Each power company set up their own lines. But increasing consumption of electricity forced standards, collaboration – and a monopoly.

For the hydropower generated in Norrland to reach the southern parts of Sweden, a national grid was needed. Vattenfall and private players worked together on this issue. But eventually the Swedish parliament and government decided to give Vattenfall a monopoly on the lines.

The Swedish system was marked by cooperation between power companies from the very early days. This enabled the companies to optimise power generation, and produce electricity in the locations where it was cheapest. This collaboration was expanded in the 1970s to cover the entire Nordic region.

Swedish power companies, including Vattenfall, were initially negative towards a deregulated electricity market. But Vattenfall adapted quickly. When the Nordic market was finally deregulated, it became the model for other European countries.

Getting electricity production to match demand is not easy. If you build too few power plants, there will be shortages; if you build too many, it will be expensive. Development in Sweden and by Vattenfall shows examples of both cases.

Vattenfall’s operations were concentrated initially on the expansion of hydroelectric power, a national grid and regional networks.

A natural disaster put the spotlight on the vulnerability of Swedish society. When the electricity stops working, so does virtually everything else. It forced Vattenfall and other electricity grid operators to significantly increase the rate of investment to make networks more secure in all weathers.

Images

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Älvkarleby power plant
Älvkarleby power plant

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Smart grids
Smart grids

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Christmas card with the Power Control personal from 1971
Christmas card with the Power Control personal from 1971

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Trollhättan power plant
Trollhättan power plant

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Western regional line
Western regional line

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Cable cabinet in Bjurfors
Cable cabinet in Bjurfors

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Usage of electricity 1960–1990
Forecast in 1972: Usage of electricity 1960–1990

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The storm Gudrun
The storm Gudrun

Videos

Lysande tider (in Swedish)
Lysande tider
Den svenska modellen (in Swedish)
Den svenska modellen
Elmarknad i förändring - Vattenfall
Elmarknad i förändring - Vattenfall
Släck av (in Swedish)
Släck av
Rallare till väders (in Swedish)
Rallare till väders

Innovation and creativity

Articles

During the 1950s, Sweden was the world leader in high-voltage engineering, thanks to the unique cooperation between Vattenfall and Asea. Together, a large government purchaser and a private company created major export success for Sweden.

During the 1950s Vattenfall broke a number of records for power station construction in Harsprånget and Stornorrfors. This was achieved thanks to skilled professionalism and 'the Swedish method', technology developed by Swedish companies Atlas Diesel and Sandvik in cooperation with Vattenfall.

When the Suorva dam was to be constructed in the early 1920s, Vattenfall faced a delicate problem. For three years, a team of 400 men would have to live and work in the roadless Lapland wilderness. The solution became Sweden's first scheduled flight route.

The development of the seat belt in Sweden was not a result of the Swedish car industry's ingenuity. It was actually a result of Vattenfall's work to prevent accidents at its workplaces.

In order to develop the company, Vattenfall employees have always travelled out into the world to learn and be inspired by others. Surprisingly often, they travelled west to the United States. Ahead of many crucial steps in Vattenfall's development, the company has learned from its large neighbour to the west.

Necessity is the mother of invention. Vattenfall has explored and experimented with many alternative energy solutions. Both how to save energy and how to make use of new energy sources.

During the IT boom in the late 1990s, development ideas at both established companies and start-ups sprouted up. Even at Vattenfall, which launched the 'smart home'. But like so many other internet-related innovations of the time, it all ended up more or less as a fiasco.

Images

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Goods train locomotive
Goods train locomotive

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News paper article about the inauguration of the electrification of the main western line and the Lilla Edet power plant
News paper article about the inauguration of the electrification of the main western line and the Lilla Edet power plant

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Program from the inauguration of electricity from Porjus power plant to the railway
Program from the inauguration of electricity from Porjus power plant to the railway

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Vattenfall's Director General and Asea's CEO in the CEO's lodge in 1940
Vattenfall's Director General and Asea's CEO in the CEO's lodge in 1940

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The Malmbanan railway
The Malmbanan railway

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Porjus and the Malmbanan railway
Porjus and the Malmbanan railway

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Stornorrfors power plant
Stornorrfors power plant

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Sleigh ride in moonlight
Sleigh ride in moonlight

Videos

Bergtagen (in Swedish)
Bergtagen
Det hände 1957 (in Swedish)
Det hände 1957
Uppdrag 2000
Uppdrag 2000
Koldioxidfria kraftverket (in Swedish)
Det koldioxidfria kraftverket
Gotland och elkraften (in Swedish)
Gotland och elkraften
Suorva - Dammbygget i vildmarken
Suorva - Dammbygget i vildmarken
Värmepump för kung och fosterland
Värmepump för kung och fosterland

In the line of fire

Articles

The agreement between Vattenfall and the conservation movement in 1961– Freden i Sarek (Peace in Sarek) – was not the end to conflict over river development. It had only just begun. Over ten years, the tone against Vattenfall sharpened radically, and the issue was finally given a political solution.

The development of hydropower was not a golden age for everyone. Many people had to pay a high price during the 1940s and 1950s, when the Norrland power was exploited, including the Sami.

The nuclear power issue has been marked by political differences, both between and within parties. It has also seen many decisions and commitments that were later overturned. This involved a great deal of uncertainty and insecurity for power producers like Vattenfall.

The greenhouse effect was noted by Vattenfall early on. But for 20 years it was partly overshadowed by other environmental problems that were regarded as more pressing – but which have now been solved. The climate change issue became topical again in the 1990s, and still is high on Vattenfall's agenda.

In connection with the construction of the Hojum power station in the 1940s, Vattenfall and the national antiquarian entered into a unique and long-standing partnership, which included saving the unique petroglyphs at Nämforsen.

The beginning of the 1920s was a turbulent time for Vattenfall. It was accused of wasting taxpayers' money, of conning farmers and paying too much for water rights. In the media, Vattenfall was referred to as 'the rotten egg among communications utilities'.

Images

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The Kalix river
The Kalix river

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Suorva dam
Suorva dam

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A referendum on the future of nuclear power
A referendum on the future of nuclear power

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Nämforsen power plant
Nämforsen power plant

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Carbon capture and storage (CCS)
Carbon capture and storage (CCS)

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Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid
Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid

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Rock carvings at Nämforsen
Rock carvings at Nämforsen

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Midskog power plant
Midskog power plant

Videos

Den blågula atomen
Den blågula atomen
Det nya ansiktet (in Swedish)
Det nya ansiktet
Öden bortom horisonten (in Swedish)
Öden bortom horisonten
Från freden i Sarek till domen i Barsebäck
Från freden i Sarek till domen i Barsebäck

The company and the people

Articles

Since its foundation Vattenfall has been governed by nine charasmatic profiles. All of them but one, has been an engineer. This article presents Vattenfall’s Director Generals (1909–1992) and CEOs (1992–).

Vattenfall is said to have been the world's first state-owned power producer. The journey to reach that point was lined with social debates and legal processes, and a large dose of entrepreneurship.

Vattenfall's evolution into a major European energy group has not always been plain sailing. The company has been historically successful in handling large fluctuations between periods of rapid expansion and times of administration.

A power system must be monitored and controlled around the clock. The production of electricity must correspond to consumption. Vattenfall must also ensure that its power plants are being exploited optimally. In order to achieve this, there is Power Control.

The issue of incorporation of Vattenfall was far from new when it appeared on the political agenda in 1990. Vattenfall and state commissions had been trying to convince its owners of the benefits since the 1920s. But it took a national economic crisis for the idea to become reality.

Since the start, Vattenfall has been a tool in the hands of its owner, the Swedish state: initially to promote the country's industrialisation, later as an element of industrial policy. Since the 1970s, Vattenfall has, to a varying extent, played an important role in the country's energy policy.

Swedish electricity supply worked very well and electricity production was efficient. At least, so thought Vattenfall and the other Swedish electricity producers prior to deregulation in 1996. But Swedish politicians wanted greater competition, and so the electricity market was deregulated. Early on Vattenfall realised it had to adapt.

The work environment was an important issue for Vattenfall from an early stage. Work was both dangerous and strenuous. For a long time, there was also a huge difference between the manual workers and office staff. They did not enjoy equal conditions until the 1970s.

Images

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Porjus power plant
Porjus power plant

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Lars G Josefsson
Lars G Josefsson

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Olide power plant
Olide power plant

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Stock certificate for the company that became Vattenfall AB
Stock certificate for the company that became Vattenfall AB

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Erik Grafström
Erik Grafström

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Trollhättan power plant
Trollhättan power plant

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Ringhals reactor
Ringhals reactor

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Mandatory helmets
Mandatory helmets

Videos

Med livet på en tråd (in Swedish)
Med livet på en tråd
Det hände 1956 (in Swedish)
Det hände 1956
Man har blivit van (in Swedish)
Man har blivit van
Solen Vattnet och Stjärnan (in Swedish)
Solen Vattnet och Stjärnan
Strömkarl (in Swedish)
Strömkarl
Presentation av Vattenfallkoncernen 1992 (in Swedish)
Presentation av Vattenfallkoncernen 1992
Vattenfalls GD-skifte 1985 (in Swedish)
Vattenfalls GD-skifte 1985
Kraftverksbyggare i Ritsem
Kraftverksbyggare i Ritsem

A pan European company

Articles

The 1990s saw drastic changes within the electricity industry. Internationalisation became a buzzword, but it would take a long time for Vattenfall to achieve a breakthrough in its efforts to establish business operations outside Sweden.

When the European electricity market was deregulated, Vattenfall aimed high. The plan was primarily to penetrate the German market, the largest in Europe. And it went well. In the early 2000s, Vattenfall was Germany's third largest electricity producer.

In 1879, electric lighting was used on the wharves in Hamburg's harbour for the first time. Now, ships could also be loaded and unloaded at night.

Electrification and electricity supply in Hamburg is closely associated with Hamburgische Electricitäts-Werke (HEW). The company has always been a reliable supplier of energy in Hamburg - from the beginning almost 120 years ago right down to today.

The history of district heating in Hamburg goes back almost 120 years. The first German heating plant was built here. And today, just as a century ago, the question is being discussed whether district heating and electricity grids should be run publicly or privately.

In 1884, Deutsche Edison-Gesellschaft used 3 million German Marks to set up the public limited company “Städtische Elektricitäts-Werke”. It was tasked with the commercial exploitation of electricity for lighting and power transmission in the current and future municipal area of the city of Berlin.

The Germany-wide patent for the Edison light bulb sounded the starting shot. Emil Rathenau and Oskar von Miller thus laid the cornerstone for the success story of electricity in Berlin. Electricity caught on; from being a luxury, it became an essential local advantage.

Nowhere is German history so tangible as in Berlin. Isolated operation in West Berlin required all reserves, especially during the blockade. In the East, the recovery continued despite the planned economy. The merger after reunification brought new challenges.

In 1789, the first lignite deposits found in Lusatia (Lausitz). In 1844, coal mining for industrial use starts in Spremberg.

Lignite has been providing work and bread to the people of Lusatia (Lausitz) for over 200 years. In the early 20th century, the Hirschfelde power plant pointed the way forwards for eastern Germany.

Reparations and a command economy were the challenges facing the power supplies of the GDR. While the production of consumer goods flourished and the welfare of the workers was the focus as never before, investments in new plants had to take a back seat.

When the Berlin Wall fell, the structures in the east changed, not least in Lusatia. The first consequences were plant closures and layoffs. However, these laid the foundations for realistic long-term perspectives.

Images

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Planta Harca power plant
Planta Harca power plant

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VCE Vychodoceska Energetika power plant
VCE Vychodoceska Energetika power plant

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Warsaw, Poland
Warsaw, Poland

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Works meeting PP Jänschwalde
Works meeting PP Jänschwalde

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Hirschfelde border post
Hirschfelde border post

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Construction of power plant West, 1930-1944
Construction of power plant West, 1930-1944

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Bewag advertisement
Bewag advertisement

Videos

The Power Island (Bewag)
The Power Island (Bewag)
Vattenfall News 2/2001
Vattenfall News 2/2001
Vattenfall News 4/2001
Vattenfall News 4/2001
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