Marie Fossum Strannegård: The energy crisis has been a wake-up call
In the spring of 2022, we were reminded of the vulnerability of the global energy system. At the same time, Russia's war on Ukraine has accelerated the phasing out of fossil gas, and many of us have started hunting kilowatt-hours. With a background in the energy sector, IVL's CEO Marie Fossum Strannegård knows the importance of a secure and sustainable energy supply.
What can we learn from the increase in energy and fuel costs?
– It has been a wake-up call for many of us, and has made people aware of how they consume energy. This increased awareness is, in itself, good and necessary, if we are to be able to pivot to a fossil-free energy system. Having said that, the year has been a disaster for many people. Especially for those directly affected by the war, but also financially for millions of people throughout Europe. There's no doubt that it has demonstrated vulnerabilities in society and in the system.
The debate about the energy market and nuclear power is in full swing. Which energy solutions do you envisage, in the short and the long term?
– In terms of the next few years, the extension of wind power is the primary means of rapidly increasing the production of electricity. Additionally, the energy system, both in the short and long term, needs to be expanded, with more solar power, bio energy, hydrogen gas solutions and various CHP solutions. As for the large-scale expansion of nuclear power, my personal feeling is that the market model has to be changed, and that the sector must be given long-term assurances, before actors can feel secure investing in that sort of energy. There must also be more research and development when it comes to small modular reactors, SMRs.
– However, the energy issue isn't only about production and transmission capacity, it's just as much about the market. We need to review the Nordic market model, which currently leads to huge price variations, both for businesses and households. It's not sustainable that people don't know if they're going to be able to afford staying in their houses or paying their rents. It's also unsustainable to have to compromise on the climate, and restart old oil-fired power plants. Ahead of a cold, dark winter, most of all we need to investigate the possibilities of adjusting the electricity market. We're currently linked to a market where different countries have different regulations, and this has a huge impact on how the market works.
How can we move towards more renewable energy production – locally and nationally?
– We're already doing this. The targets that have been set at national and global levels are moving in this direction, and the instruments in the market are designed so as to prioritize renewable energy. Additionally, we know that wind power for instance can spark strong reactions, but I think the resistance will reduce as the advantages become clearer.
Sweden is far behind other countries in the development of and investment in hydrogen gas and hydrogen gas infrastructure. What do we need to do here?
– Many countries already have a well-developed infrastructure of gas pipelines; compared to many other countries, Sweden has a small gas supply. But we definitely need to catch up, and develop the capacity to produce fossil-free hydrogen gas using, for instance, wind power. At IVL we can contribute by identifying which part of the Swedish energy system can benefit the most from hydrogen gas. For instance, in previous projects we studied the further refinement of hydrogen gas, in the form of electrofuels such as aircraft fuel, and we have various hydrogen gas projects underway and more in the pipeline, but naturally this all requires a lot more research and development.
As an independent research institute, what is the role of IVL – today and in the future?
– IVL contributes facts and knowledge about the market and how the energy system works. We do this by analysing various energy forms and conducting in-depth research into renewable fuels and energy sources. For instance, we witness a great deal of curiosity for and development in hydrogen gas and electrofuels, at the same time as other renewable fuels and biofuels are seeing growth. Increasingly, industrial actors are exploring how they can find new, more sustainable and secure energy carriers for their processes, while energy efficiency continues to gain importance. At IVL we're also involved in developing how energy can be used cascadingly in various processes and how district heating will look in the future, as well as how we create flexibility in the system.