18.08.20 Corona has further accelerated digitalization” Torbjörn Tärnhuvud • 5 min.

Scroll to Read
interview with Torbjörn Tärnhuvud

Torbjörn Tärnhuvud is CEO of Uniper subsidiary Sydkraft Hydro Power AB. He talked to us about what he and his employees are doing to ensure that the electricity supply remains reliable even during the corona crisis and how the pandemic has fostered innovation.

Has corona threatened the supply of hydroelectricity in Sweden?

Not at all. We took the right steps early. I saw a news report in late February about the effects of the pandemic in Italy, France, and Spain. It was immediately clear to me that it wouldn’t be limited to these countries and would spread rapidly, including to Sweden. That same evening I sent an email to our whole workforce in which I initiated steps to protect our employees and to ensure supply security. We were proactive instead of reactive. This early and decisive action has paid off. Our operations have continued to run smoothly.

What steps did you take?

We suspended business travel, limited access to the control center, and imposed visitor restrictions. Employees returning from business trips abroad had to spend two weeks in quarantine. Like the rest of Uniper, all employees not needed in a control center or power plant have been working from home since March 9. Uniper operates 76 hydroelectric plants in Sweden with a total capacity of about 1,700 megawatts.

Presumably they can’t be run from home?

No, but our control center is staffed around the clock. We have contingency plans in case any of the specialists who work there get sick. Asset maintenance must continue during corona to ensure smooth operations. To minimize contact and the risk of infection, we formed small maintenance teams of at most three people. In addition, they increasingly use new technologies like drones as well as helmet and body cameras. This has worked out very well.

Have you postponed projects because of corona?

We’ve turned to virtual solutions. For example, several of our engineers were going to travel to a factory in Venice to inspect new turbine shafts we’d ordered for one of our hydroelectric plants. Because the Venice region was particularly hit hard by the pandemic, we cancelled the trip and inspected the shafts remotely instead. We had a live video conference in which the Italians moved a camera over the new equipment, enabling our engineers to carefully inspect the images. The process took a whole day but worked perfectly.

How was the transition from regular operations to the new procedures under corona?

Surprisingly smooth. At no point were our operations or the energy supply endangered. Of course it was a big adjustment for our employees. But they met the challenge with determination and creativity. With many of our employees working from home, our IT department has ensured that we’re protected against cyberattacks.

Have the work arrangements fostered innovation?

Absolutely. Corona has further accelerated digitalization. Even after corona we’ll retain many of the processes we’ve tested and put in place. They’ll enable us to save time and money and further reduce our environmental footprint.

When will you return to normal operations?

We don’t know yet. A pandemic working group has been analyzing the situation continually and, in close consultation with other Uniper colleagues, writing guidelines and directives. We have plans in place in case the COVID-19 situation improves as well as plans in case it deteriorates. So far, none of our 175 employees has caught the virus. This may be due in part to our quick response. I’m responsible for our workforce, whose health is crucial for the security of Sweden’s energy supply. I won’t take unnecessary risks and will maintain the restrictions for as long as necessary. Although everything has gone smoothly so far, I'm sure that most colleagues will be pleased when they can return to the office. Video conferences enable us to discuss a lot of things. But they can’t replace the informal meeting in the turbine hall or at the coffee machine.


The contents of this website are created with the greatest possible care. However, Uniper SE accepts no responsibility for the accuracy, completeness and topicality of the content provided. Contributions identified by name reflect the opinion of the respective author and not always the opinion of Uniper SE.

You might also like

Atomkraft, Atomkraftwerk
Energy • Economy • Innovation The future of nuclear power Thomas Schmidt • 8 min.
Energy • Economy Can electricity be both renewable and reliable? Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 5 min.
Energy • Climate Cutting carbon cost-effectively Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 6 min.
Energy • Innovation Will hydrogen’s future arrive? Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 7 min.
Energy • Climate • Economy Can our emissions be undone? Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 5 min.
Energy • Innovation • Science A British biologist’s uncanny clairvoyance Dariush Jones • 6 min.
Energy • Society • Climate A new era, a new color, a new world view Dariush Jones • 5 min.
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
Energy • Society • Economy Russia modernizes its fossil power plants Dariush Jones • 7 min.
Energy • Society • Innovation Less fretting about jetting Thomas Schmidt • 4 min.
Energy • Innovation Harnessing more renewable energy, decarbonizing industry Thomas Schmidt • 3 min.
Energy • Event Debate.Energy Conference: Best of Jochen Brenner • 15 min.
Energy • Society “Corona is accelerating developments that we didn’t expect for several years” Hannah Meisters • 4 min.
Energy • Innovation “As green as hydrogen can get” Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 6 min.
Energy • Climate #Anthropause: is corona climate-friendly? Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 7 min.
Energy • Climate • Politics • Economy Gas is the ideal enabler of a successful energy transition Andreas Schierenbeck, Vorstandsvorsitzender Uniper SE • 4 min.
Joe Biden
Energy • Society • Climate • Politics Biden's climate plan: jobs, workers, unions. Oh, and clean energy too. Dariush Jones • 6 min.
Energy • Innovation • Economy A different incentive for energy efficiency Thomas Schmidt • 7 min.
Donald Trump
Energy • Society • Politics • Climate Donald Trump's climate policy: “A golden age of energy dominance” Dariush Jones • 7 min.
Bremst der Coronavirus die Energiewende aus?
Energy • Climate • Society Opportunity or obstacle? What corona means for the energy transition Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 9 min.
Energy • Innovation • Climate Podcast: "Städte spielen eine zentrale Rolle für die Energiewende" Jochen Brenner • 30 min.
Wasserstoff: Energieträger der Zukunft
Energy • Climate • Opinions Hydrogen: Jules Verne’s vision brought to life Andreas Schierenbeck, Vorstandsvorsitzender Uniper SE • 8 min.
Energy • Innovation Nuclear fusion: elation or illusion? Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 5 min.
Energy • Economy • Science Fuel cells for passenger cars: hope or hype? Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 8 min.
Follow us on Social Media
Follow us
on Social Media