Many eyes are now turning to the north, as some of Sweden’s industries are converting to become more sustainable, while massive investments are being made in green technology.
Northern Sweden – known for its vast forests, northern lights, and beautiful surroundings – is now gaining attention for its role in the sustainable transition. Northern Sweden stands for a big part of the fossil-free energy production in Sweden and has access to raw materials such as iron, copper and rare earth metals, which are needed in the green transition.
Nina Rismalm is responsible for North Sweden Cleantech, the northernmost node of Smart City Sweden. She describes the developments in northern Sweden as a new era, with significant changes in industry trends and the cities of northern Sweden.
– Northern Sweden is where things are happening. Over the next few years, estimates are that more than €970 000 million will be invested in new green technology and that the population of Norrbotten and Västerbotten will need to increase by 100,000. Both counties currently have around 525,000 inhabitants,” she says.
One of the investments to receive the most international attention so far is HYBRIT, which will use fossil-free manufacturing to fundamentally change the Swedish iron and steel industry. The Northvolt battery factory, which is estimated will generate 5,000 green jobs in Skellefteå, has attracted international visitors and workers from all over the world.
Electric aviation, bioeconomy and e-methanol
Smart City Sweden has welcomed many international visitors to Skellefteå. In addition to the battery factory, the delegations have also visited Skellefteå Airport, which now has a charging station for electric aircraft and the world’s only aviation school for electric aircraft. Another popular attraction is Sara culture centre, one of the tallest timber buildings in the world, whose energy system is integrated with the city’s central energy solutions using smart algorithms.
Nina Rismalm says that there are other investments in green technology in northern Sweden that are not yet as well known, but which have huge potential. For example, last year, the first sod was turned into RISE’s (Research Institutes of Sweden) new pilot hall in Örnsköldsvik. This is expected to be completed by the end of 2023 and is part of the Bioeconomy Arena, a national hub for the industrialisation and commercialisation of the bioeconomy’s new technologies, products and services.
Another is a billion-crown investment, in which Liquid Wind and Öviks Energi have entered a new partnership on the manufacturing of a carbon-neutral fuel, e-methanol. A new plant is being constructed at the High coast innovation park in Örnsköldsvik, where tens of thousands of tons of fuel can be produced annually. Liquid Wind and Umeå energi are also looking into the possibility of establishing another plant, which would be Sweden’s third electro-fuel facility for the maritime sector, in the city of Umeå.
Four focus areas
In addition to new jobs and lots of opportunities, the green transition of the industry also entails challenges, from both environmental and societal perspectives. This is why IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute has increased its presence here.
– The industrial green transition is moving very rapidly, and the focus is on creating more value around it. However, this needs to be supplemented by research and expertise linked to issues of sustainability and the environment, so IVL is a good fit, says Aurora Pelli, who is responsible for the establishment and business development of IVL’s investments in the north.
She talks about their four focus areas: energy transition and circular flows; industrial transition; sustainable societal transformation; and supporting the climate transition of small and medium-sized enterprises.
– There is currently a lot of emphasis on the value chain for batteries, and finding solutions for building sustainable communities, including reusing construction materials. The common denominator is that we all want to contribute to sustainability, but there are challenges and conflicting goals that must be resolved along the way, says Pelli.
Arctic Center of Energy
There is currently a huge amount of development work on the green industry in northern Sweden. A natural part of this is the establishment of new knowledge hubs, such as the Arctic Center of Energy in Skellefteå, which will focus on the energy transition.
– A great deal of development work is underway here now. A lot is happening even in small businesses, as Västerbotten has an extremely driven business culture, says Pelli.
She has worked on IVL’s investments in Skellefteå since 2022 and is positively surprised.
– The ambition and interest in development here are significant, creating good opportunities for us to work together, to develop and secure northern Sweden’s role as an important region in the global transition, Pelli ends.