The Giant Swedish Company Building The Wind Farm Trump Opposed In Scotland

Source: By Nathan Vardi, Forbes • Posted: Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Adam Ezzamel had a very busy fall. The project director of the Aberdeen Bay wind farm off the east coast of Scotland supervised preparatory work of an onshore substation, the ordering of steel, contracts for cable supply, and the final design of 11 wind turbines.

One thing Ezzamel claims he did not do was think about Donald J. Trump. “I have so much on my plate in delivering this project in the constraints we have that the U.S. presidential election didn’t enter into the mix at all,” Ezzamel said in a recent interview. “It has been business as usual. I really don’t see why he [Donald Trump] would have any implication.”

Wind turbines operated by Vattenfall AB sit on a wind farm in Aggersund, Denmark, on Sunday, April 17, 2016. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Ezzamel works for Vattenfall, Sweden’s state-owned utility giant, which made the decision in July to invest about $350 million to build the Aberdeen Bay wind farm known as the European Offshore Wind Deployment Center. Trump has opposed the wind farm for years because of concerns it will ruin views from a luxury golf course he owns about 2 miles away.

Trump legally tried to block the wind farm, but the effort was denied by Britain’s highest court in 2015. After winning the White House in November, Trump reportedly pushed British politician Nigel Farage to oppose offshore wind farms that spoil views, arguably like the kind Vattenfall is building in Aberdeen Bay.

Trump’s meeting with Farage sparked a wave of media coverage and questions about how Trump will manage his business interests while in the White House. But Ezzamel says he paid no attention and remained focused on fast-tracking the project to get the wind farm up and running lightening quick by the summer of 2018. The reason for the rapid construction schedule is that the wind farm’s access to government subsidies will be cut off if the turbines are not spinning by the end of September 2018.

Ezzamel is confident the deadline will be met “This facility is going to be sitting there just five miles from Aberdeen Harbour for 20 years producing power,” he says.

The Aberdeen Bay wind farm is part of Vattenfall’s strategic move away from fossil fuels and into renewable sources of energy. The company was working to sell its interest in the project as recently as 2013, but after Magnus Hall took over as CEO he reversed the decision and moved Vattenfall aggressively into the wind business. Vattenfall has since sold its coal assets in Germany and has set a goal to produce 7 gigawatts of wind capacity by 2025. Vattenfall currently has capital expenditure plans to invest at least $1.2 billion in wind projects.

With $18 billion in annual revenue, Vattenfall is the largest utility in the Nordic region and used to be a cash cow that contributed to the budget of its only owner, the Swedish government. But in recent years Vattenfall has stopped paying dividends amid write-downs from failed investments and lower European power prices. In Germany, where Vattenfall is the third-biggest electricity producer, the company is pursuing legal action and compensation over the government’s decision to phase out nuclear power, including the closure of Vattenfall nuclear power plants. Vattenfall has lost billions of dollars over the last four straight years.