From the CEO

Bjarni Bjarnason

It is often difficult to realise when a revolution has taken place, when it is occurring, and what enduring changes will remain after it ends. The focus here is on four areas where radical changes are taking place and we need to understand where they will lead to: changes in the workplace, the automatisation of operations and services, energy switching and climate change.

The workplace is changing faster than we imagined. The dire need, which the pandemic forced upon us, to reduce the number of people who could gather scattered work extensively in a very short period of time, throughout the country and even around the world, particularly office work. Groups of colleagues who used to meet over a cup of coffee in the morning were unable to come together for months on end. The importance of the workplace in our social existence has thus diminished, but numerous surveys have shown that employees would rather have a good working atmosphere and fair management than higher wages. This is something we have experienced in the Reykjavik Energy Group. People’s connection to their workplace and colleagues has changed. The pandemic has perhaps also altered people’s perceptions of what matters most in life and what place work should occupy in people’s sense of identity.

A quarter of employees under telework contracts

In 2021, the companies in the RE Group entered into a number of agreements with employees, giving personnel the authorisation – one might even say obligation – to work elsewhere than in the traditional workplace for a certain number of days a week, month or year. For the first time, the companies in the Group advertised jobs without a location.

The technology to make this procedure work has been around for years. It was the accursed virus that really forced us to use it and now we will be put to the test to see whether we manage to use this technology successfully or whether it will be a burden. Attitudes towards these changes vary greatly between individuals and, at the same time, there are differences in how people envisage their jobs once the pandemic is over. It will be a challenge for employers to shape the changed workplaces in such a way that the mutations that have already taken place and will continue to take place can lead to the increased well-being and satisfaction of employees.

Jobs that will become obsolete or change

Related to this development, but of a different nature, are the various changes caused by increased automation. It has transformed some jobs and made others obsolete. This is why, for example, we are currently seeing that the work of meter readers is coming to an end. The increased self-reading of the meters of Veitur Utilities’s customers has already resulted in considerable decreases in this line of work. The replacement of old energy meters, which has now started, will shift meter readers into the category of water carriers and other jobs which technological innovations have made redundant.

The replacement of meters has no less of an impact on those who manage the utility systems. Increased data on customer usage provide the opportunity for a better management of utilities, more efficient load management and therefore a better utilisation of the energy we obtain from Icelandic nature. Artificial intelligence comes into play when computers learn the most sensible responses to changes in customer usage or inflow deficiencies in utility systems. This calls for our staff to acquire a different know-how that will help us to make even better use of the natural resources we are entrusted with and from which we process our energy.

Fossil fuel vehicles being phased out

In 2021, for the first time there were more alternative energy cars registered on the roads than fossil fuel vehicles. Alternative energy cars are synonymous with grid-connectable electric vehicles, hydrogen electric vehicles and methane vehicles. Reykjavik Energy has vigorously supported this development for years. Evidence of this is to be found in the decisive leadership ON Power has shown in the development of EV charging stations of various kinds, its production of hydrogen, RE and Veitur Utilities’ grants for the development of facilities in apartment buildings, Veitur Utilities’ methane pipeline from Álfsnes and more. The benefits of this trend are so evident and many Icelanders are so positive about them that energy switching in transport is pivotal in the climate objectives of the Icelandic government. The importance of Carbfix in combating climate change can also not be overestimated, both in reducing emissions from polluting operations and now also by sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and disposing of it. This actually means reducing pollution that has already occurred.

Resilience and adjustments

Although good opportunities are opening up here for making a smaller carbon footprint, we need to both create more opportunities if the climate goals are to be achieved and to prepare for the events and developments that will occur with the climate changes we have already caused. Just as with technological developments, some are dealing with them successfully, while others fare less well in grappling with the changes, participating in them or leading them. These differences – our human diversity – must be understood and respected, as we adhere to the fundamental principle of sustainable life to ensure that our offsprings are offered a world that is no worse than ours; that the revolutions occurring now do not eat their own children.