Sweden is on the threshold of a gigantic leap in electrification. In order to quickly translate goals and visions into action, RISE runs the Energiklivet (Eng: Energy Leap) initiative, where authorities, energy companies, battery manufacturers, researchers, municipalities – virtually everyone able to provide input in the climate transition – have important roles to play. And it’s urgent.
– “We need to double, maybe triple, electricity production, and we will do this within 20 years,” says Markus Norström, Business and Innovation Area Manager at RISE. “It’s one of the largest projects that Sweden has ever undertaken. The electricity system has been in an administrative period and is not prepped for a leap.”
By 2045, Sweden shall have achieved net-zero atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions. When the transport sector and the process industry transition to fossil fuel-free solutions, FFI (Vehicle Research Initiative) and the Industriklivet (Eng: Industry Leap) initiative are there to support innovation work and new applications of technology. In a similar way, Energiklivet must serve as an engine to ensure that electricity supply – which is the topmost prerequisite for achieving climate targets – keeps up with development.
– “Some companies will require a lot of electricity to make the transition,” says Norström. “The transition into fossile-free steel has some of the largest requirements. The transition and expansion of production at LKAB expects to draw 55 TWh per year, which corresponds to a third of what is produced in the country.”
In plain English, 55 TWh is a lot. It also puts into perspective the magnitude of power that will be added to the electricity grid.
– “We recognise that we have a unique chance in Sweden. We have an abundance of electricity, relatively low prices from an international perspective, and great opportunities to make more renewable electricity. It’s a strategic resource that will be a competitive advantage.”
Skellefteå facing major challenges
Someone possessing one of Sweden’s most tangible competitive advantages in the energy sector is Joachim Nordin, CEO of Skellefteå Kraft. In his home market, the population will grow to 90,000 inhabitants by 2030. The industrial establishments, led by Northvolt and Revolt, are not just driving up housing prices, the power output is expected to increase sixfold in the next decade.
– “We say that Sweden has a huge challenge insofar as the consumption of electricity is expected to double,” says Nordin. “But compare this with what Skellefteå is facing by 2030.”
The foundations of Skellefteå’s favourable position are hydropower – which, together with hydrogen, is predicted to be the major regulatory force when weather-dependent energy systems become dominant – as well as electricity network investments that began in the 2010s. The local power group is today a national player with significant renewable electricity production.
– “We are investing heavily into electricity grids, both regional and local,” says Nordin. “We are doing this to both safeguard the industrial establishments queueing to get into Skellefteå, and for the whole city’s development.
– “We are also investing in increasing the output of our hydropower plants. Instead of building new units, we will optimise existing hydropower to increase output. Above all, it involves starting operation when needed, and halting when it’s windy outside and the sun is shining.”
Nice words are fine, but this is urgent
Will target crucial efforts
Markus Norström at RISE says that electricity grid reinforcements, integration of energy storage, and shortening lead times are some of the challenges that must be overcome. He emphasises that Energiklivet should not cover all issues and fields – it is about identifying and targeting crucial efforts:
Where is more research needed? What regulations need to be amended? How can technical solutions be developed or implemented? Which market model works?
Cooperation at a fast pace
Markus Norström envisions a programme of action with authorities, energy users, and the business community working in close cooperation. And it must happen quickly:
– “It’s important that we see commitment to this. There has been too little so far. It is absolutely necessary for such a complex system like the energy system.
– “An important aspect in everything is that we do it together. That we prioritise and organise together. Implement new solutions together, test new solutions together.”
Global role model
Joachim Nordin at Skellefteå Kraft says that he likes the idea of bringing together the various key operators in electrification from Day 1 and starting to focus on implementation:
– “Nice words are fine, but this is urgent. Electrification must happen now, both for achieving the climate goals and for the entire green transition. It is an opportunity for the whole of Sweden to maintain our leading position. Be a role model not only for Europe but also globally, and show that it’s possible to achieve the climate goals with sustainable growth.”