Tf divisionschef Samhällsbyggnad
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within the clean-tech industry will probably play an important role in the energy transformation, primarily in terms of creating necessary flexibility, such as through digital control and storage solutions. This is according to Andreas Regnell, Senior Vice President, Strategic Development at Vattenfall.
Sweden and the rest of the world are facing major challenges in the energy area. The Paris Agreement has set a goal of 100 per cent renewable energy systems no later than 2050. In Sweden, it is the Government’s ambition for electricity production to be 100 per cent renewable ten years earlier.
“It has long been said that electrification constitutes a major and important part of the solution to the climate problems, but it’s actually only now that the issue has been brought up in earnest,” confirms Andreas Regnell, Senior Vice President, Strategic Development at Vattenfall.
If the world’s large, energy-intensive industries are to extract themselves from fossil dependence, a lot of electricity will be required. And the solutions look different in different parts of the world.
“Close to the equator, it’s obvious to make use of the energy from the sun, but at our latitudes, we have to focus on other solutions,” says Andreas Regnell.
The politicians’ decisions regarding the future of nuclear power plays a role. If nuclear power in Sweden is entirely shut down by 2040, it will require large investments in alternative sources of energy. The development of technology to capture and store carbon dioxide will also become significant. But the absolutely largest challenge in the short term is the shortage of grid capacity that is already a fact and that will get worse as the cities grow and more and more industries shift to electricity.
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Everything that concerns optimisation should be built into all new production of homes
“In order to achieve the goals, the issue of grid capacity must be resolved. Shorter processing times for permits are necessary, which in turn will require a change in the process. Consideration must be taken to the climate benefit that a line provides and that must be weighed against local consequences. Today, consideration is only taken to the local consequences. A review must also be done of what rights exist to appeal decisions,” says Andreas Regnell.
“With today’s process and regulations, we will not be able to meet this challenge. Put simply, climate projects, such as electrical lines and wind farms, need to be given a priority that is more like what road construction has. A consequence is that the state needs to be prepared to pay reasonable amounts for affected properties. This is not an easy discussion, but we have to have it in order for us to be able to achieve our goals.”
Another challenge for the grid owners is also the transition from large-scale, plannable production sources, such as nuclear power, to more small-scale production in the form of solar and wind power. In the new system, consumers can also become producers by installing solar panels on the roof, for example.
Besides major issues such as nuclear power, carbon dioxide storage and grid capacity, there are many smaller areas where new solutions are important and can contribute to more effective use of the electricity produced. This concerns, for example, optimisation of the energy consumption in a property.
“Here, thanks to digitalisation, a lot can be done by installing power monitors and shifting capacity on time. Everything that concerns optimisation should be built into all new production of homes, but a lot can also be done in existing properties. These kinds of measures are significantly more important from a system perspective than solar cells on the roof,” says Andreas Regnell.
He believes that SMEs have an important role to play in this development, as well as in terms of energy storage.
“Storage is definitely a part of the solution and can take place in a number of different ways. Of course, storing energy in hydro power reservoirs is the most inexpensive, but storing energy in the form of hot water is also effective, but is not used much today. Then, you can also store energy in your home. In modern well-insulated buildings, the temperature does not drop very quickly, rather it is possible to heat the building and then turn it off. It takes time before it gets cold,” says Andreas Regnell.
In general, simple, flexible solutions are needed that optimise and control the energy consumption in a property, without it thereby becoming troublesome for the individual. Computerised operational supervision systems for properties with needs-based heat regulation in apartments already exist and can be developed further. This is also true of systems that, for example, sense the peaks when the residents get in the shower on cold winter mornings and then automatically borrow power from the central heating system to the hot water system. The need for innovation will be extensive.
“This development becomes an important task for SMEs. We usually say that flexibility is the new black, which means that we have to be open to different variants and solutions if we are to manage the goals set for the energy transformation,” Andreas Regnell.