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Sweden set to double installed capacity by 2022 - but can the grid keep up?

Written by Sigrid Carstairs
18/03/19 - 11:28

The EU:s renewable energy target states that by the year 2020, 20% of the regions energy is going to stem from renewable energy sources. Sweden is currently at the top of that list with an impressive figure - 53% of the countries energy originates from renewable sources, beating the target of 49% ahead of the set date. Not bad.

Last year (2018), Sweden installed 200 new wind turbines across the country. This year (2019), this figure is set to triple to 600, according to the Swedish Wind Power Association. With the government mandated goal of reaching 100% renewable energy by 2040, it sure seems that Sweden is on the right track.

The Swedish wind power development originated in the Southern parts of the country, but is now largely focused to the Northern regions, which we can see in the development of some of Europes largest onshore wind farms: Markbygden outside of Piteå in Norrland, Överturingen in the Jämtland region and Nysäter outside of Sundvall in Västerbotten (just to name a few). There is a consistent increase of investment into Swedish wind power, and according to Charlotte Unger Larsson, MD of the Swedish Wind Power Association, these investments largely come from pension funds abroad. The Swedish wind market is also attracting many of the established German 'power houses' of onshore wind power, resulting in more developers on the market. Swedish wind power is very much 'on a roll', much thanks to the political energy targets set in 2016, and there seems to be no cause for concern as to the progress of onshore wind farm development in Sweden.

Is this really the case though? Ever since I myself started working towards the wind power industry in Sweden, I have heard whispers of concern relating to the capacity of the grid. It now seems these whispers have become more of a vocalised concern, and lately I have come across quite a lot of debates relating to the Swedish grid system, and what needs to be done.

The Swedish grid system has for many years been counted as one of the worlds most developed and efficient, and the Swedes have (as compared to most others) always been able to trust that there is a steady supply of electricity. However, the grid is now facing new times, and there are challenges relating both to the capacity and supply of electricity in many of Swedens larger cities. The grid system is no longer sufficient, and in many locations, there is a stop on further connections of large scale energy sources. It is quite clear why this is a problem for the development of Swedish wind power; how can the country continue to develop at the pace we are currently in, if there is no way for the energy to get connected to the main grid?

The picture to the right depicts the Swedish grid system according to the three sections it's divided into (I have no idea why they are named 1, 2 and 4 - but there is probably a semi-reasonable explanation for this somewhere). The main usage lies in section 4, which is the most populated area of Sweden, and also the are that has the lowest production. This infers that most of the produced electricity is transported from the northern regions, through the sections of the grid to the southern part of the country. The result of this is that during parts of the year, there can be restrictions on how much electricity that can be transported through the grid. This then results in a shortage, which Svenska Kraftnät (the main grid owner in Sweden) solves by purchasing energy from other areas to the Southern part, and then selling energy in the parts with an overflow of energy production. Not really ideal, but it seemingly works.

Anyhow, the demand for a strong and reliable grid system is increasing, especially with the renewable energy transition. The main concern right now it that the grid system cannot handle the renewable energy transition (according to Mattias Goldmann, Fores, and Johan Lindehag at Ellevio). Problematic? Yes indeed.

According to the Swedish minister Anders Ygeman, there needs to be a quicker way of developing the Swedish grid system. I would argue that he has a point - but how to solve it is a completely different issue all together. But a country like Sweden, which is leading on many climate change issues, will not accept defeat so easily. See, many of the solutions that can help halter the devastating effect of climate change is dependent on electricity - especially the move to transport powered by electricity. If any of these targets are to be met, the industry has a challenging task ahead, but at least the issue is being adressed. If the targets set in the 2016 renewable energy agreement are to be met, action is required.

As a renewable energy recruiter, I see another issue, which I know many of my clients and other industries face as well. I am talking about the shortage in electrical skills on the Swedish (well actually the Scandinavian) energy market. Recruitment in Scandinavia can be tricky at the best of times, much due to high employment rates. It often infers candidates don't feel a need to actively seek new employment (enter me, and my headhunting skills). However, one section of the market which is a continuous challenge is the candidates with skills in high voltage (HV) and electrical design, service, installation - you name it - they are just in short supply wherever you go.

So, with that said, I figured I would try to see if there is any interest in my network for any of the following roles (bear in mind Swedish (or Norwegian in one case) language skills is a requirement):

  • Authorised Electrical Installer according to Swedish standards (A-behörig Elinstallatör enl. svenska elsäkerhetsverket) - Malmö or Piteå

  • Electrical Design Engineer for onshore wind farms -1 role in Stockholm and 1 in Malmö

  • Electrical Works Manager for onshore wind farms (cabling, grid connection etc) - Malmö

  • Electrical Service Technician for onshore wind farms - Tomelilla and Eslöv (Skåne area)

  • Project Manager for Electrical Works - Gothenburg

  • Electrical Service Technicians for onshore wind farms - Östersund and Piteå area

  • Electrical Service Technician for onshore wind farms - Stavanger area, Norway

I have plenty of more roles in my pipeline as well, so please feel free to contact me for a confidential chat about your career and future progress on +46 40 668 80 66, or send me an email with your most recently updated CV to sigrid.carstairs@cathcartenergy.com

Even if these roles aren't of interest, or it's not within your skillset, I'd be happy to speak to you, as new opportunities come along all the time. Moreover, you can visit our website on www.cathcartenergy.com to keep yourself updated on new jobs.

Together, we can work towards a 100% renewable energy system in Sweden. I look forward to hearing from you, and if you have any thoughts on the renewable energy development in Sweden, or the grid, feel free to share your ideas.


Sigrid Carstairs

Recruitment Consultant

Cathcart Associated Energy Ltd.