In Northern Sweden, development is taking place for a future based on renewable energy. – "Villages have in some cases gone from struggling to survive to being the places where it's happening," opens Daniel Badman, CEO of Swedish Wind Energy.
Good access to renewable electricity at competitive prices, combined with favorable investment conditions, is a key to growth in the region.
– One could argue that there is almost too much electricity in Northern Sweden, but it is precisely this that creates the opportunity for investments when electricity becomes a critical competitive factor. We are facing very, very interesting times, and incredibly positive times for Northern Sweden, he continues.
Helene Renström, the marketing manager in Skellefteå municipality, believes that the northern part of the Nordic regions will be pioneers in the transition to a sustainable future.
– It is we who have access to renewable energy. This provides the opportunity to work on large-scale industrial initiatives, she says.
– This hasn't happened so often throughout history. Often it's been big cities or university towns that have changed rapidly. Now we're seeing a whole new type of development where Skellefteå becomes a test for how we can adapt quickly, but also in a way that allows us to contribute to the rest of the world, Renström continues.
A green and systematic willingness to transform is now contributing to the transformation of Skellefteå, a city and municipality in Västerbotten in Norrland. With its 74,000 inhabitants, this is not a small rural area, but they have experienced many of the same issues as smaller places. Emigration has affected the region.
– We had lost a significant portion of our young population over a long period. Something had to be done, says Helene Renström, Marketing Manager in Skellefteå Municipality.
They developed a clear vision for the future of Skellefteå and set a goal to reach 80,000 residents by 2030. But how should they grow, and what was important for this to happen in a sustainable way? To get better answers to their own questions, they initiated an extensive dialogue with the residents.
– When you are going to change a place, it is extremely important to have the residents involved in the process, emphasizes the marketing manager.
When the strategy was set, together with residents, businesses, and associations, they could establish a clear investment plan to build the necessary infrastructure in parallel with growth.
The will to change and a concrete investment plan. Abundant land and access to renewable energy. Several good conditions are in place for establishing new industries in the area.
Northvolt, the first electric vehicle battery manufacturer in Europe, chose to establish itself in Skellefteå. The battery factory aims to produce the world's greenest electric vehicle batteries based on green and renewable energy.
The factory attracts people from all over the world. In 2022, Northvolt hired over 600 new employees. In the future, they plan to recruit an additional 1000 people. Investments of 75 billion will be made in the area in the years to come.
The significance for Skellefteå? In 2022, the municipality experienced a population growth of over 1000 people. The municipality's strategy has already begun to bear fruit.
– Skellefteå has transitioned from being a city with certain challenges to becoming one of those places people want to go to in order to live. It's an incredibly exciting place, says Daniel Badman.
He is very enthusiastic on behalf of the region and the growth opportunities ahead.
– We can also see it now in Boden, with H2 Green Steel wanting to build an entirely new steel mill. We see it in Kiruna and many other places in northern Sweden. There is an incredible optimism for the future based on access to renewable electricity at competitive prices. There is plenty of that in northern Sweden, so it's an incredibly exciting time ahead, he says.
In order to remain competitive, the industry is increasingly demanding more electricity. In recent years, wind power in Sweden has been developed at a rate of 7-9 TWh per year.
– Sweden produces 160 TWh of electricity annually, and we can see that the growth rate is strong, and we are right in the midst of it, says Badman.
The steep curve has only emerged in the very last years. If we go back 10-15 years, wind power was a marginal part of the Swedish electricity system.
If all development plans proceed as expected, wind power will be Sweden's second largest power source by 2025, says the CEO, who expects that they will need at least twice as much electricity in Sweden in the future.
– We believe that it would be good to prepare for even more, precisely to create opportunities for future investments in the new industries. We envision the need for significant electricity production in Sweden. In the medium term, up to 2030, onshore and offshore wind power and solar energy can be rapidly developed. Wind power can be scaled up significantly. These are very inspiring and crucial times, says Daniel Badman.