BKW, in business for more than a century, is a leader in Switzerland’s energy sector with a market share of around 15%. The dynamic enterprise is one of the few vertically integrated Swiss energy companies. CEO Kurt Rohrbach explains that BKW works with large and small enterprises and municipalities, both directlyand indirectly, and that the company is also involved in trading, transmission and production. He says, “Our main production is hydropower, but we also produce nuclear power, and we are Switzerland’s biggest producer of renewable energy.” In fact, BKW was responsible for the construction of the country’s first large-scale solar energy plant 15 years ago, and it is the principal partner in Switzerland’s Mont Soleil and Stade de Suisse solar plants and in the Juvent wind energy plant.
With energy sales of about 26 Terawatt-hours in 2008 and a workforce of approximately 2,800 employees in German and French-speaking Switzerland, Italy and Germany, BKW is one of the major Swiss groups integrated into the European grid. In its home sales area – north-western Switzerland from the Alps to the French border – BKW supplies electricity economically, safely and ecologically to around a million people in 400 communities. In 2008 BKW supplied over 7,970 gigawatt hours of energy to private customers, industry and distribution partners in Switzerland and about 5,200 gigawatt hours in Germany and Italy.
With approximately 12,000 gigawatt hours per year, energy trading is another of BKW’s areas of expertise. The company was the first enterprise in Switzerland to receive a license to trade energy, and it has benefited from its well-established market position as a frontrunner. Nevertheless, BKW still produces more energy than it trades, at a ratio of about seven to one. “We are involved in trading but without negating our core competencies and without accruing too much risk,” Kurt Rohrbach says. He adds, “Every kilowatt hour of energy we produce, we supply via a trading hub.”
Plan to reduce percentage of public sector ownership
Over the years, BKW has steadily reduced the involvement of the cantonal government in its operations. Two decades ago it was owned 95% by the Canton of Berne; today, this share accounts for roughly 50%, a small portion for Switzerland, according to Kurt Rohrbach. “Our long-term vision is to reduce this stake even more,” he says, noting that BKW’s management has recommended it would reduce government’s share to 34%, with 25% to 26% remaining ‘free float’ and the rest to be held by strategic partners and investors. “Concerning attracting foreign investors, we are unlike our competitors in the energy sector because their free-float is too small. Through reducing the government’s share, we have become more attractive for individuals to invest in us,” he believes.
BKW’s goal is to continue to increase its market share. Its strategy includes diversifying its production portfolio through stepping up its investments abroad, as well as investing in other energy ventures, including coal and gas. The Swiss market will remain BKW’s top focus, Kurt Rohrbach says. “We partner with small distributors who do not dispose of their own production. In that way we have formed a lot of partnerships throughout Switzerland,” he explains.
The company will also continue to invest in boosting production capacity in its plants, and is currently involved in a major dam project to enhance its energy storage capacity. It also aims to step up its imports, and to replace its nuclear power plant, which will come to its technical end of life as of 2020. BKW has a strong commitment to CO2 free production to protect the environment, and plans to increase its involvement in renewable energy as well as in smaller hydropower projects. A combination of different energy sources is the best choice for Switzerland, BKW believes.
Wide range of services for partners
Concerning partnerships, BKW has longstanding working relationships with distributors and other producers. Kurt Rohrbach explains, “For distributors, we can offer trade services to give them indirect access to markets. We can also provide a package where we take even more responsibility in order to secure and provide more reliable energy. We can also provide support in engineering and manufacturing.”
In fact, BKW offers diverse services and growth opportunities to any company involved in energy production or distribution. “We can provide many examples of companies which are very happy with our offerings and work closely with us in finding the right solutions. We are not always the cheapest, but we are the closest to customers, and we focus on fulfilling our clients’ particular needs,” Kurt Rohrbach says, citing the Swatch Group as one of BKW’s satisfied clients. He welcomes contacts with potential partners and customers, and concludes, “BKW will not only give you personalised service but is also able to ensure that you will have access to the energy you need not only tomorrow but in the years to come, and at reasonable prices.”