FVB – 50 years old with a focus on sustainable growth!
Comprehensive in energy – with cutting-edge expertise. These are two important success factors for FVB. The company is now celebrating 50 years and looking to the future, where sustainable energy solutions are an important driving force.
FVB currently has 150 employees and offices in nine locations in Sweden, as well as offices in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. It all started 50 years ago in Västerås on a much smaller scale. Founder Birger Abrahamson was working as a construction manager at Tekniska Verken in Västerås when he chose to start the consulting company Fjärrvärmebyrån, which changed its name to FVB in 2003. Five other people with district heating expertise were onboard from the start, including Björn Andersson, who was CEO of FVB during the years 1987-2005.
“The oil crises in the early ‘70s were a real springboard for district heating in Sweden. When FVB was newly founded, we were hired to conduct economic investigations and develop a technical foundation for political decisions for investing in district heating in Botkyrka, Köping, and Sandviken, among other places,” says Björn Andersson, who continues:
“This then led to designing the distribution networks, production, and customer facilities.”
In 1982, Birger Abrahamson decided to sell the company to the government-owned company Studsvik. In 1991, it became clear that Studsvik was going to be sold to Vattenfall – a company that was very electricity-oriented at the time.
– För oss som arbetade med fjärrvärme var inte det rätt väg att gå. Lösningen blev istället att FVB köptes tillbaka och personalen blev ägare av företaget. Det var oerhört inspirerande och det gav oss frihet att agera. FVB är fortfarande personalägt och det har varit en del av företagets framgång, menar Björn Andersson. Samma år utökades verksamheten till att även omfatta fjärrkyla.
“For those of us working with district heating, this was not the right way to go. The solution was that FVB was bought back and the employees became the owners of the company. It was incredibly inspiring and gave us the freedom to act. FVB is still employee-owned and this has been part of the company’s success,” says Björn Andersson. The company was expanded to include district cooling the same year.
“FVB had had offices in the U.S. since 1980 and worked with district cooling there,” says Björn Andersson.
In 1991, FVB was commissioned by the industry organization Värmeverksföreningen (currently Energiföretagen Sverige) to conduct the first district cooling investigation in Sweden. Just a year later, Mälarenergi in Västerås decided to build the country’s first district cooling network, planned by FVB.
District cooling has since been an important part of FVB’s business and, in addition to participating in a number of district cooling projects in Sweden, FVB has also participated in projects in the U.S., Canada, and the Middle East. There was also an office in Bahrain for a time.
“Our foreign operations have been important to the development of the entire company and we consider it one of our strengths,” says Björn Andersson, who is backed up by Leif Breitholtz, CEO of FVB since 2005.
“Sweden gets a lot of international praise for its systems thinking. Systems thinking is also a hallmark of FVB. We work with the entire chain, from feasibility studies, distribution systems, and production systems to end use of energy. We also do interdisciplinary work with electricity and automation, which affects every part of the flow and all types of customers. We have also proven that our concept works abroad,” says Leif Breitholtz.
From east to west
FVB has also worked on several SIDA-funded projects, including in Estonia, Latvia, and Moldova. These projects have been about improving and streamlining major existing district heating systems, but also improving the energy supply of hospitals and schools.
“After the exciting SIDA period, we started looking for commercial projects in Western Europe, which recently led to us starting a subsidiary in the U.K.,” says Leif Breitholtz.
Globalization has been and is still an important trend in the energy industry. Other relevant trends are digitalization, sustainability, and climate issues. FVB has worked on developing solutions to these issues for a long time.
“We started working with sustainability goals quite early, and in 2008 we developed a concept of sustainable energy solutions where the focus was on economy, environment, and technology. Nowadays, we also include social sustainability, where we try to influence issues around diversity, equality, and equal opportunity,” says Leif Breitholtz.
Today, the sustainability work is done systematically. FVB is also ISO certified in quality, environment, and work environment.
“It is all based on sustainable business, which has been a guiding principle since the start of the company,” says Leif Breitholtz.
For 50 years, FVB has had a stable economy, which has enabled growth. Going from a small consulting company of six people to now having locations in several cities in Sweden and abroad was done through continual growth. Over the years, FVB has made some corporate acquisitions, but the company has mostly grown organically, which is something they would like to continue doing.
“Growing as a company poses challenges as we open more offices and the number of employees grows. An important guiding principle for FVB has been that everyone should feel involved and informed. There cannot be an ‘us’ and ‘them.’ Therefore, it goes without saying that we use our entire workforce when assembling teams for various projects,” says Leif Breitholtz, who continues:
“Our strength is our skilled and committed employees. We see that the competition for technicians and engineers is increasing, and it will be a major challenge in the future to find the right employees, but we also know that we are an attractive company to work for and we hired 30 new people in 2019.”
Leif Breitholtz sees good opportunities for continued growth in all business areas within the energy, industry, and real estate segments, both nationally and internationally.
“We are more niche than most consulting companies. We will continue working like that, while at the same time we are looking at a new growth area, which is water and sewer networks. This is not energy, but is adjacent, as it also has to do with underground lines. There is a lot to do here,” concludes Leif Breitholtz.