EFLA Consulting Engineers / January 2023 / Energy Focus

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Icelandic Strength Ensuring European Sustainability

Iceland’s EFLA Consulting Engineers is taking its skillset, developed in its cruel home climate, and growing around Scandinavia and Europe. By focusing on quality and sustainability above everything else, this expert in renewable energy, transmission lines and substations is becoming ever popular as the energy transition challenges continue to mount.

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//Iceland is a world leader in renewable energy and its challenging, isolated environment makes for an innovative approach to problem solving. The country’s 375,000 people utilise geothermal and hydropower to power homes, business and industry but there remains much to be done in eliminating fossil fuel in ground transportation, aviation and the shipping fleet as Iceland embraces the energy transition. The government has targeted a reduction

of greenhouse gas emissions by 55% against 1990 levels by 2030, and carbon neutrality by 2040.

To succeed in this ambitious mission, the private sector has been engaged, and expert businesses continue to provide pioneering services in the generation and distribution of power.

EFLA Consulting Engineers is Iceland´s leading engineering organisation with four main divisions covering Society, Buildings, Industry, and Energy, and the growth achieved

by the business in a relatively short period is testament to its focus on ingenuity and quality. Aside from a broad coverage of engineering services in Iceland, EFLA also exports knowledge primarily in the field of energy transmission and distribution, but also in geothermal energy and automation and controls in industry.

EFLA AS in Norway is the biggest of six subsidiaries outside of Iceland, gradually widening its service offering.

Director of EFLA’s Energy division is Steinþór Gíslason. He tells Energy Focus that the company is preparing for an influx of project work as the energy transition gathers pace and as EFLA expands its reach across Scandinavia and further into international markets.

“The core in our international reach is projects on power grids –transmission lines and substations. We are in a leading position in and outside of Iceland. We strongly believe we are one of the three companies which are leading in Scandinavia in that field, and we have a very good market position in Europe. We have 70 people working full time on transmission lines and substations. I

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think there are very few companies in Europe with such a large team in this field of expertise. We have decades of experience enabling us to provide excellent consulting service,” he says.

“We also have significant experience in hydro- and geothermal energy generation, and are currently supporting the development of the first wind energy projects in Iceland. We also specialise in power grid analysis, energy forecasts and economic studies, with main customers including Landsnet and Icelandic energy authorities.

“After 12 years of continuous growth, we experienced a minor slowdown due to Covid in 2020 before picking up again,” he adds. “We foresee that growth will continue and the business is doing well. In the field of energy there is a lot of potential for future growth, as this sector is very much in focus in Europe and worldwide. The discussion around energy security has never been as strong in Iceland. Too little has been done in new generation of energy in Iceland in the last decade or so to meet demand. We therefore have a clear need for new initiatives, and a lot of energy projects are expected to be realised in the coming years.”

With a total of 400 people, and a 50 year history, EFLA Consulting Engineers is a strong driving force in Iceland and the Nordic region. The name EFLA has a meaning of ‘strength’ or ‘reinforcement’, reflecting the company’s mission to strengthen its clients ability to achieve their own goals. In the energy space, completion of design and installation in some of the world’s most physically challenging


landscapes has bolstered EFLA’s reputation and the intention going forward is to continue delivering quality while embedding sustainability and the environment within each project.

“The energy transition needed worldwide, including in every market that we operate in, will be the main focus of our customers and ourselves,” says EFLA CEO, Sæmundur Sæmundsson. “We need to make changes in the coming two decades, at a pace that we are still trying to achieve. It will require a lot of change in processes, a lot of change in government decision making, and it will require all of us to come up with new ways of working faster, and more agile. The energy transition will impact every aspect of our work in the coming two decades.

“No matter which projects we participate in in the future – power, buildings, transportation, industry etc – the environmental factor will become more important and we push that view to our customers. We recommend that they should consider the environmental factor from the beginning of each project and throughout the lifecycle of the projects,” he adds.

INTERNATIONAL GROWTH Sæmundsson joined EFLA in March 2021, tasked with further expanding the company’s reach outside of Iceland. With its energy business already strong in Norway and Sweden, the company is keen to underpin its position while growing in new markets. However, any growth will not come at the expense of values. Achieving success in terms of expansion will be measured through the company’s ability to fuel the energy transition, wherever it operates.

“Generally speaking, the Nordic countries – Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland – have used hydroelectric power which is not as common

in other Northern European countries. We are strong in this space and it is another thing that separates us,” says Sæmundsson.

Recent projects highlight the strength of the company in Scandinavia and its ambition for furthering the switch to efficiency in a renewable energy future.

“In the Nordic countries, most of our energy related work has been in the design of overhead transmission lines. It differs from the rest of the world mainly due to the weather and terrain conditions, especially here in Iceland. That is the main reason we are strong in this field as we have Icelandic experience from the beginning with heavy wind, ice, and snow,” highlights Gíslason.

“There is a lot of cooperation in the Nordic countries and we have a long history working together. Our first international projects were implemented in 1993 where we worked

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Steinþór Gíslason Head of Energy Dvision


in Sweden on the design of a new overhead transmission line alongside Statnett, Norway. From there, we have developed strong expertise working with the TSOs of these countries.”

In October 2022, EFLA inked a contract with Statnett in Norway to supply engineering design for a 90 km 420 kV power line which supports the country’s second-largest aluminium smelter. Crossing two fjords – each 3km long – the job is not easy and requires specialist expertise. EFLA secured the contract based on a top score relating to quality after evaluation by Statnett’s team.

In the recent months, the company has been working in Croatia, consulting on geothermal energy projects. East of Zagreb, in the city of Bjelovar, plans are underway to use geothermal energy as a renewable source for heating of homes and commercial property. EFLA will produce technical documents and lead research with the expectation that 25,920 MWh could be produced annually from a

geothermal well – Korenovo GT-1. Early reports suggest that 3500 tonnes of CO2 could be saved annually.

In June 2022, EFLA completed a deal to acquire a majority stake in the French engineering firm HECLA SAS. HECLA works closely with the French national power grid, RTE. The company has great experience in the design of energy transmission facilities and matches the ambitious, quality-focussed culture in EFLA.


For each relationship that is built, there is a single underlying factor that EFLA delivers unconditionally – quality. The company’s reputation is based on quality, and embedding excellence as part of any project is non-negotiable, resulting in EFLA becoming the biggest engineering firm in Iceland.

“EFLA is a small company internationally but the key element around why we do very well is that we have had such a strong focus on quality. We are very driven around

having the best quality and operating at the highest level. We are determined to exceed client expectations in every single project that we have – that has been our key focus and the reason behind our growth,” reveals Gíslason.

“EFLA also has decades of experience in the design of geothermal projects,” he adds.

Operating to ISO 9001, 14001, and 45001, the company is certified for its quality management system, and when combined with an emphasis on environmental best practice and long-term sustainability, EFLA’s position as a European leader is solidified.

“Our strength on power grids and transmission lines is compelling and we have a very good reputation,” smiles Gíslason. “Due to our focus on quality we put a strong emphasis on increasing the number of resources gradually. We try to add only a few people to a team each year to secure a high level of quality. We strongly believe in growing slowly but surely. There are many project opportunities

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in our markets and we could easily hire 10 people and gain projects for them immediately, but we are of the view that it would not uphold our reputation in the long-term. We are not for short-term gain by risking quality to our clients and longer-term damage to our reputation.”

Sæmundsson agrees, saying: “EFLA is a very vibrant and dynamic company and it has been the forerunner in

Iceland for the past decade. We have led in the space of sustainability and environmental issues, and our services and delivery have been growing fast. We do not take risks around quality.

“Sustainability, environmental issues, lowering CO2 emissions are the issues I see as important for companies to be focussing on now and in the near future. It is perfectly in line with the drive of EFLA and my own goals.

In order to go forward and continue developing as a company, this has to be at the centre of what we do,” he says.

Locally, EFLA remains committed to its home market and continues to gain new contracts with prominent Icelandic organisations as the reputation of quality and sustainability goes before it.

At the Sundahöfn harbour in Reykjavik, EFLA has been busy

supporting a drive to electrify and connect power from the shore to berthing container vessels. EFLA had a supervisory role in the partnership which was made up of Eimskip, the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate, the City of Reykjavík, Faxaflóhafnir and Veitur. Instead of burning oil, Eimskip ships can now sit in the harbour safely connected to electricity. 750 tons of CO2 is saved each year.

In Straumsvík, west of Reykjavik, EFLA expertise was called on for a predesign project for the Coda Terminal at Carbfix’s CO2 mineral storage hub. Set to receive and store three million tons of CO2 annually in underground rock using Carbfix technology, the plan is to demonstrate what is possible, taking CO2 from industry around

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Pure Knowledge Expert consulting and design of powerlines for a sustainable future efla-engineers.com // OUR STRENGTH ON POWER GRIDS AND TRANSMISSION LINES IS COMPELLING AND WE HAVE A VERY GOOD REPUTATION //


northern Europe and embedding it safely into rock. With positivity around the environment once again in focus, EFLA is actively tackling problems with a proactive approach. CO2 will also be captured from the Rio Tinto aluminium smelter on site before being fed into basalt bedrock. Rolled out at scale, this type of technology could become one of the biggest contributors in the fight for emission reductions and EFLA continues to lead the way.

“Over the last 10 years, we have had to push the sustainability agenda, but now it is something which comes more from the customer and is a requirement from the start,” says Sæmundsson.

“This is very important for our bigger customers,” Gíslason states. “They are very focused on environmental issues and they show initiative in securing environmentally sound solutions for a sustainable future. The focus on the environment and social responsibility is very important for EFLA as well as to our key customers and therefore it is our joint responsibility and effort to ensure that the projects are solved with the best results for the environment and communities.

“This is one of the main strengths and a pillar of our success,” he adds. “We have been very focussed on the environmental issues in our approach and leading the way in Iceland. In our energy projects worldwide, we always embed an environmental focus and evaluate where we can have the most impact. That has been vital. Sustainability is a strong ambition of ours inside EFLA and it flows in our veins, through all of the different division and different projects that we have.”


EFLA has undertaken a reorganisation programme in the business over the past three years, and has changed structure to better organise workflow and project progress. The idea behind this restructuring is to allow every single employee a chance to thrive and contribute, while better serving clients.

Sæmundsson, who comes from a background in IT and finance, says that the pandemic accelerated the change and now, EFLA is better positioned than ever to help customers around the world to thrive.

“In 2019, we changed the structure of the company and flattened the hierarchy. We wanted to give each and every employee the possibility of working in an environment where their views are valued,” he says. “Today, we have a very flat structure within EFLA in Iceland and we plan to apply this to subsidiaries in other countries. We have seen that this helps make each and every team more dynamic and it is also helpful to bring together teams from different parts of the company as that is happening more. New projects tend to need specialisation from more than one or two divisions. We want our teams to be more dynamic and made up of people from more than one background – this flat structure has helped us in this evolution.”

He adds that the innovative nature of the business and its people allowed EFLA to overcome challenges set out in 2020 at lightning speed, gaining competitive advantage.

“We changed to entirely remote working in weeks, something we would have thought would have taken years pre pandemic. It affected the operations of the company much less than we expected. We adapted to remote working, but we also continued our projects and continued working for our customers.

“Taking remote working to a completely new level in just a few weeks is helping us today and it means that everything is much easier for everybody. We are bringing together skilled individuals and forming dynamic teams, working on projects in different countries, and that is helping us to move towards our vision in the future of being able to work on any type of project, for any type of client, in any location. ”

In the energy division, Gíslason says that teams are now very comfortable working across borders and new technology and software has allowed the business to thrive.

“The steps taken recently have been enormous. Our clients are much more open for working between

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countries and this gives us a lot of possibilities. We now have operations in seven countries and we have much more possibilities of cooperation with our companies in Poland and France for example, compared to three years ago.”

Potential avenues for growth have been identified in the wind sector where EFLA has experience but where Iceland is not yet advanced. Currently, research is underway to understand more about the potential of wind in Iceland, but most agree there is vast possibility.

“The big change towards wind power will continue in Iceland and we are involved in the early stages of many projects. We are convinced that this will be a significant development in the coming years. Our aim is to become a leading engineering company in this field,” says Gíslason.

“In all of the countries we work in, we see enormous opportunities ahead. The Nordic grid development report shows a huge investment in the power grids in the next decades – it’s not just an increase, it’s a complete shift. We see tremendous change and

that brings a big opportunity for a company like ours, working in many countries with a valuable expertise.”

As EFLA grows more in international markets, it will call on decades of experience built up internally. Founded as a group in 2008 when four engineering firms came together (Línuhönnun, AFL, RTS, Verkfræðistofa Suðurlands), the history here dates back to 1973.

“The idea in 2008 was to create a company that could cover all aspects of engineering. Since that time, EFLA has doubled in size through organic growth and mergers, and developed a strong presence all over Iceland. We now have eleven offices around the country and our original goals have been successfully reached. Now we are aiming for new targets,” explains Gíslason.

The strength of the company was recognised in July 2022 when EFLA was given the Presidential Award for Export Achievement by Iceland’s President, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson.

The award emboldens the company to do more and extend

its reach, delivering sustainably and efficiently where ingenuity is required.

“Efforts will be made to increase co-operation, co-ordination and synergy within EFLA’s international operations to strengthen the foundation for growth. We intend to seize the great opportunities that already exist with existing products and markets and examine opportunities with existing products in new markets,” concludes Sæmundsson.

Clearly, taking learnings from the harsh and tough landscape in Iceland is helping EFLA to provide robust, sustainable, multi-disciplinary solutions that benefit the environment, and go someway to achieving critical targets as the world embraces a transition the likes of which has never been realised before.

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