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The Renewable Future | An outlook on Scandinavias Green Expansion in a Post-Pandemic World

Written by Sigrid Carstairs
03/07/20 - 17:03

It is odd, as for most of us it has only been a few months since the world as we knew it changed, and still it now feels like this new normal has been going on for quite some time. Working from home, having meetings via Zoom, Teams or Skype, and only meeting other people outdoors - it's all part of a routine at this point for many. And although we are now in a recession of scale, the renewable energy sector is still expanding, and I can honestly say that the past three months have been some of the busiest I have experienced in a while, which bodes well for the sector, and I have come across similar sentiments with many of my clients and candidates. Across the world, calls are being made for countries to restart their economies with sustainability in focus, tackling the threat of climate stage once and for all by restructuring the way our society functions.

 

Because let us face facts; we have now proven what was previously thought to be impossible by conducting important meetings online instead of flying to the location, cutting commute times to the office, and overall facilitated a more effective and more environmentally friendly way of working. In my opinion, this is the best way forward, and we should definitely try and take this opportunity to restructure so when we restart our economies, this is done in a sustainable manner.

 

So, with this in mind, what are the Scandinavian countries doing in the light of Covid-19, and how are governments and policymakers responding to the idea of a so-called 'green restart'?

 

In my line of work, I have the privilege to speak to people at all levels in the renewable energy sector, and across different institutions as well. This includes contacts at private companies such as developers and consultancies, as well as people within different industry bodies and policy-making entities. And although the consensus on how to do it is not always aligned, the goal is the same; the renewable energy transition cannot be halted, and we must continue the green energy transition across the board to mitigate climate change. I actually read a very interesting article from the Swedish Wind Energy Association back in April, which addressed the energy minister Anders Ygeman, urging him to not forget about the climate crisis in light of the pandemic crisis, as this is just as much of a threat to earth and humanity in the long-run.

 

And it does indeed seem like governments in Scandinavia are very much taking this on board, with the Swedish government placing climate change at the heart of politics, ensuring the climate is taken into account in all political decisions, especially in light of the pandemic to ensure a so-called 'green restart' (DN). Moreover, in a digital meeting on the 26th of May, the Nordic energy ministers set some guidelines for an economic recovery plan focusing on sustainable energy systems, whilst simultaneously approving a plan for how the Nordic electricity market is to function henceforth (norden.org). The Nordic countries have ambitious national goals set to achieve their transition to renewable energy and the Nordic cooperation serves as a facilitator for cooperation in achieving this goal. What was concluded at the meeting at the end of May is that the Nordic energy sector are well equipped to handle the challenges brought forth by the Covid-19 pandemic, being at the forefront of new energy technology, and with governments supporting renewables the sector is forecasted to be one of the sectors with most growth potential as well as the best opportunities for export. As stated by Dan Jørgensen, Minister of climate and energy in Denmark; "The recovery for the economy in the Nordics and Europe after Covid-19 opens up great opportunities for a green restart, which both supports the development towards a carbon-neutral future, creates jobs and gives us competitive and sustainable growth"(norden.org). With this in mind, it seems there is consensus across the Nordic countries that the energy sector plays an integral part in the economy in a post-pandemic world.

 

However, there are still areas that need addressing to achieve a greener energy mix in the future. For example, the debate on offshore wind power in Sweden is still something which is thriving, and although there are expectations some sort of framework will be announced within the not too distant future that will address the grid connection costs. This needs to be addressed so it is clear how the responsibility- and cost distribution is when it comes to the grid connection to the national grid, and so it can be harmonized with other Nordic countries conditions on this. As Norway has also introduced new legislation when it comes to the permitting of onshore wind farms that can cause further challenges in this section, it is of importance to recognize that although there are divided opinions in Norway on wind energy, it needs to become more integrated into the Norwegian energy mix, especially now that oil and gas has taken a massive hit globally in light of the pandemic. And it is true that across the world we have seen numerous businesses struggle in light of the pandemic, having to lay off staff and cut back on projects. This is however not the case for renewables, and especially not in Scandinavia. Although the predictions is that the installed capacity in 2020 will be lower than what was initially forecasted, renewable energy companies are pushing hard to make their projects happen (nytimes.com). I also saw that specifically solar and wind energy are two energy sources that are actually being benefitted in light of the covid-19 pandemic, as they are a cheaper and more reliable option for energy than coal during this time (fplus.se). The consumption of coal is actually rapidly slowing down across Europe.

 

So what does all this mean for the Scandinavian countries and their green energy agenda? Well, from what I can tell based on news stories and discussions with the industry, the renewable energy sector is continuing to grow despite of the pandemic and the challenges it comes with. If I look at Sweden in particular, which is my core market, I can say that I have been very busy with new roles the past 3 months. According to the Swedish Wind Energy Association, there have been some delays on projects, but not yet to a point where the prognosis for installed capacity in 2020 has been affected. It just shows the longevity of the wind energy sector, and with most investments spanning over 30 years, there is confidence that the industry will be able to contribute well to the green restart in a post-pandemic world. It seems the concerns in Sweden particularly, are more related to challenges in getting a permit approved, and the prices on the electricity market. Across Finland, numerous new projects and investments are being announced, and I believe this is the next 'hot market' to watch in the Nordics as Finland is attracting heavy investment in renewables from abroad. You can actually see depicted in the image above the number of turbines planned and in construction across Finland (image from 2019), and Northern Ostrobothnia definitely seems to be a hub for new wind farms.

 

Overall, my assessment is that yes, the pandemic has come with its challenges and some delays. However, the renewable sector in Scandinavia will survive, and from what I can tell based on the status quo, it is quite likely to even thrive in the near future.

 

If you are keen on roles in the region, as always, get in touch with me on +46(0) 40 668 80 66 or sigrid.carstairs@cathcartenergy.com. I am currently working on the following roles which have quite an urgent requirement;

 

SWEDEN (Swedish and English language required for all roles):

 

Wind Farm Project Developer - Falkenberg

Wind Farm Construction Project Manager - Falkenberg

Wind & Site Analyst - Stockholm or Gothenburg

Wind Farm Construction Manager - Sundsvall

HV Project Engineer - Stockholm

 

 

FINLAND (Finnish and English language required for all roles):

 

Wind Farm Project Developer - Oulu or Helsinki

Wind Farm Construction Manager - Oulu or Helsinki

Grid Manager HV Projects - Oulu or Helsinki

Technical Asset Manager - Oulu

 

 

Sigrid Carstairs

Senior Recruitment Consultant

Cathcart Associated Energy Ltd.