Sweden needs to increase its electricity production significantly by 2050 to secure the electrification of society and industry. However, in addition to increasing production, improved efficiency, better decision-making and a willingness to consider the whole rather than the parts can also play key roles.
If Sweden is to achieve its climate goals, the process industry needs to transition from fossil fuels and raw materials to electricity. A great deal of electricity. Add to this the electrification of vehicles, and any number of other energy-intensive operations such as server farms, and the increase in electricity consumption over the next thirty years will be marked. An annual increase of about 6–8 terawatt hours, the equivalent of 300,000 electrically heated house, will be required each year. But where is all this electricity to come from?
– “There’s no answer to that question, no either/or,” says Caroline Haglund Stignor, Head of Robust and Flexible Energy System at RISE.
– “It’s a matter of different perspectives: what we can do in the short term, and what we can do in the longer term with the aid of new technology.”
In the short term: onshore wind and solar power
In the here and now, the next decade, onshore wind and solar power is one of the easiest ways to expand electricity production, both rapidly and at relatively low cost. Moreover, solar power can be built close to consumers, on city rooftops.
– “Onshore wind power will play a key role over the next decade. In the longer term, say 10–20 years, offshore wind power is most likely the best bet, but it takes longer to get in place,” says Caroline Haglund Stignor.
Interplay between different types of power
Solar power and wind power have the advantage of complementing each other in that the sun often shines when the wind is calm and vice versa. But we also need other energy sources.
– “Historically, we’ve considered energy to be freely available, something that is just there, one energy source at a time,” says Stefan Ivarsson, Unit Manager Renewable Energy at RISE.
– “But that isn’t enough. We need to replace that approach with one in which we consider both energy and power, a system approach encompassing the entire energy sector, for better interplay between the different types of power. We can’t just say solar or nuclear or wind, because then we lose the interaction. Different types of power have different advantages, and we need to create a system in which all the parts work together as a whole.”
One example is a study showing that hydropower has great potential to act as a power regulator for solar and wind power, but such a scenario requires hydropower plant modifications that are yet to be made.
– “Other interesting possibilities include energy storage in the form of hydrogen gas in caverns, or heat storage in the bedrock. The important thing is that we consider how the entire energy system can interact,” says Stefan Ivarsson.
We can also benefit a great deal from optimisation
New construction not the only solution
However, neither new construction in the shape of new energy sources nor upgrades to existing plants alone can solve this.
– “We can also benefit a great deal from optimisation, which mustn’t be forgotten in the debate,” says Malin Unger, a project manager at RISE.
– “It won’t be enough alone, but there are great socioeconomic benefits to be gained from not moving too fast but first assessing where we can rethink things and what we can optimise.”
Moreover, she encourages reflection for other reasons too.
– “While we need to expand production, if we expand too fast, we risk compromising quality as well as neglecting the necessary system and life cycle approach. Neither the public nor the private sector will have time. RISE can be an important partner here, in part because of our breadth and expertise, and in part by means of impartial quality control. We can act as a partner that gathers stakeholders and helps them to find common ground for moving forward.”