Energy comes from Skellefteå: “We aim to be world leaders”

When it comes to growth and development in the field of renewable energy, the world’s eyes are all on the Skellefteå region. Tens of billions of Swedish kronor are being invested in the region; while the rest of the world is in fear of recession, people here are talking about expansion.
“I’m absolutely convinced we can become the model that shows the world how to meet the challenges of climate, a renewable society and innovative growth,” says Joachim Nordin, CEO of Skellefteå Kraft.

The municipally owned power company Skellefteå Kraft is at the heart of a series of green investments and has partnered with Northvolt in what will become Europe’s largest battery plant for electric vehicles. The total cost of the first factory will be around SEK 30 billion. The European joint venture EIT InnoEnergy has also been tasked by the European Commission to run the European Battery Alliance to make sure Europe no longer lags behind in battery production, where Asia is currently in the lead. Seen together with Skellefteå Municipality’s long-term strategy of infrastructure investments in renewable energy, the future looks very positive.
“With the energy available here, Skellefteå is in a unique position, which appealed to Northvolt. It needs green electricity and high output to produce green batteries, which is where we fit in with our renewable electricity and well-developed electricity grid,” says Joachim.

Wind and water – nature’s battery

Northvolt needs at least 300 megawatts – that’s twice the consumption of the whole of Skellefteå.
“We have the world’s cheapest, most stable electricity, and it’s 100 percent renewable – what we needed was an energy company bold enough to take a leap of faith with Northvolt and the municipality. We want to be a trailblazer and show how climate transition should proceed,” says Joachim.

Skellefteå Kraft has previously invested in the Blaiken wind farm, which produces 700 gigawatt hours per year and is one of the largest land-based wind farms in Europe.
“Wind power and hydropower are a good balance in a renewable energy system. Wind power is a fantastic source of renewable energy, but as the wind does not always blow, predictable hydroelectric power generation is a good complement. Combined, the two forms of power make up Norrland’s green battery,” says Joachim.

Electric aircraft initiative

He’s convinced that one thing will benefit another – with Northvolt as the largest energy set up in Europe, the region needs to grow in terms of industries, homes and tens of thousands of people. So it’s important to create sustainable growth and take advantage of the opportunities it creates. Take a look at some of the things in the pipeline: Together with Northvolt and EIT InnoEnergy, Skellefteå Kraft is investing in making Skellefteå Airport a test centre for electric commercial aircraft.

Sara Cultural Arts Centre in Skellefteå will open in 2021 and is planned to be the world’s tallest wooden building – and the world’s most energy-smart cultural centre. Skellefteå Kraft has entered into a collaboration with ABB to connect the building’s energy system to the city’s. Artificial intelligence will then control the flow of energy in the cultural centre for use where it is most needed.
“We feel we are the key to everything that happens, but there are very few things we can do entirely on our own, so it has to be done in collaboration with others. It’s why we often develop our energy solution through partnerships with smaller, innovation-driven companies,” says Joachim. And this is where EIT InnoEnergy comes into the picture.

The world’s biggest programme

Since its foundation, when Northvolt consisted of just three people, EIT InnoEnergy has invested around SEK 100 million in the company. Today, EIT InnoEnergy has established an office in Skellefteå to have a presence where everything will take place. From it, EIT InnoEnergy will support start-ups in sustainable energy and electrification. Their accelerator programme, known as Highway and which came into being as a unique model, comprises 300 European companies and is the world’s largest in the energy sector.
“Our portfolio is based on sustainable thinking, where start-ups are given time to grow. Our mission is to support innovations that can grow and become the embryos of tomorrow’s industry. Everything boils down to confidence in the future and the opportunities we see here, especially in traditional base industries such as mining and energy, which will be important to link as partners with new enterprises and innovation,” says Kenneth Johansson, CEO of EIT InnoEnergy Scandinavia. They already have initiatives together with Skellefteå Kraft and the municipality.
“In practice, you could say that so far the initiatives rest on three legs: more training, more infrastructure and creating greater opportunities for small business owners,” says Kenneth.

Their role could also include making use of the existing companies in the portfolio by taking their know-how to Skellefteå.
“We have a whole catalogue of entrepreneurs whose initiatives can be useful in the region. This will put Skellefteå on the map; we our creating supply chains, a stronger economy and ultimately more jobs,” says Kenneth.

Before ideas become commercially viable there is always a time of economic uncertainty, and EIT InnoEnergy is there as a guarantor.
“We have the muscle to invest at an early stage, and we can testify to things that would never have happened had we not stepped in. Confidence in the future and these fledgling environments means we’re investing in extremely good conditions, and if we can get everyone to interact, we’ll see good results,” says Kenneth.

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