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How can industry avoid power shortages when transitioning to sustainable production?

Electrification, not least within industry, is crucial to Sweden’s future success in achieving the goal of becoming a fossil-free welfare country by 2045. There are also challenges having to do with grid capacity and local power shortages. How will industry be able to overcome these problems and create opportunities instead? Sara Bargi at RISE has some answers.

A doubling. That is what is expected to happen with Swedish electricity consumption if we replace all energy consumption with electricity.

– “Today, we are producing around 160 terawatt hours of electricity per year in Sweden, and we ourselves are consuming around 140 of those terawatt hours,” says Sara Bargi, Focus Area Leader for future electrical systems at RISE.

– “If we are going to make all of our industrial production carbon neutral, however, we estimate that it will require an additional 50-150 terawatt hours per year. In order to do the same thing in the transport sector, another 15-25 terawatt hours will be needed. So basically, it amounts to a doubling of our current electricity consumption,” she says.

A necessary transition

Most would agree however, that it’s a transition we need to make. Today, Swedish electricity production has essentially zero carbon dioxide emissions, so making the transition is crucial to avoiding the threat of climate change. But how can be make that transition if we are only producing around half of the electricity that we are going to need? And, if we are already struggling with power shortages and grid capacity, primarily in southern Sweden, how can this be solved?

– “Work is being done to increase electricity production and Svenska Kraftnät recently published a plan for doubling its investments to expand the grid infrastructure. But all of that will take a very long time. So, if I were working in industry, I would already now be pondering how to reduce our vulnerability in this area,” she says.

If I was working in industry, I would already now be pondering how to reduce our vulnerability in this area

Energy efficiency is the first step

The first step in such a strategy would involve taking a look at energy efficiency and above all, analysing one’s own production and how processes could be improved in order to consume less energy.

– “To do this, you need to start from scratch, looking at the business model to see if higher resource efficiency can be achieved through process innovation, for example. At RISE, we’ve been studying this as part of the Industriklivet and Omställningslyftet initiatives and we have many examples of how to transition to more sustainable production,” she says.

From consumer to producer

The second step involves starting to think about oneself not only as a consumer of electricity, but also a producer of it.

– “One way of doing this is by looking into energy communities or reading about our research on fossil-free energy districts, where we have taken a look at how to set up areas that are energy positive,” she says.

For all of these endeavours however, Sara Bargi says that it can be a good idea to bring in an external partner like RISE, who can assist with efforts to reduce one’s own vulnerability regarding future electricity distribution.

– “It’s typically quite an eye opener, when you see how many opportunities actually exist that you wouldn’t know about unless you worked with this on a daily basis. And, for companies that decide to make the transition sooner rather than later, there can be a competitive advantage that maximizes the benefit to the business, society and the environment,” she says.