We conduct research and development (R&D) to contribute to the realisation of our strategy in both the short and long term. In recent years our R&D has shifted focus from traditional electricity generation to more customer-centric areas, with increased emphasis on digitalisation, smart grids, e-mobility and decentralised solutions for customers.
Our R&D organisation has approximately 130 full-time employees, but a great deal of development also takes place within each Business Area. We focus on how we can best use technology and new solutions to execute our strategy and provide customer value. In many projects we work in close collaboration with technology partners to jointly develop new solutions.
To fulfil our purpose – to "Power Climate Smarter Living" – our overarching strategy for the years ahead is based on four strategic objectives:
Leading towards sustainable consumption
Reducing CO2 emissions in the steel industry with green hydrogen
We have started a project together with the minerals group LKAB and the steel company SSAB to significantly reduce the climate impact of Swedish steel production. SSAB's blast furnaces for iron production in Luleå and Oxelösund are the two single-largest sources of CO2 emissions in Sweden. When iron ore is heated together with coal in the blast furnaces to produce iron, CO2 gas is produced as a by-product. The idea is to use hydrogen – produced using green electricity, instead of coal – which would emit water vapour instead of CO2. This technology has the potential to eliminate approximately 10% of Sweden's total greenhouse gas emissions. The project is currently in a feasibility study phase, with industrial scale production expected to commence in the second half of the next decade, following a pilot phase and demonstration project.
E-vehicles – making charging easy
Our R&D in e-mobility is focused on making it convenient and cost-efficient to charge electric vehicles, be it a private car on a driveway, a city bus, or heavy goods vehicles. With inductive charging, a parked vehicle can recharge automatically without even having to plug in a cable. Through smart charging technologies in the home, vehicle charging will pause if power is needed for cooking, washing or heating – and will automatically restart when domestic loads reduce. This avoids unnecessary costs or unwanted power outages due to blown circuit breakers.
An exciting project aimed at business customers is electric roads that allow heavy goods vehicles to charge as they drive, which is currently being tested in Rosersberg, Sweden (eRoadArlanda).
These projects will ultimately facilitate the adoption of electric vehicles and accelerate the transition to a sustainable electrified transport system.
Leading towards sustainable production
Balancing power from the sun and wind with hydro power
Hydro power is the backbone of the Nordic energy system. It provides reliable, affordable and renewable energy for consumers, and has the flexibility to balance out both fluctuations in demand and the increasing supply from intermittent, weather-dependent sources, such as wind and solar. This means that hydro power optimises the energy system by providing on-demand electricity and allows a higher proportion of wind and solar energy generation in the system.
In recent years we have made our hydro power plants more robust and better prepared for the future – through maintenance initiatives to ensure they remain productive for another 40 to 50 years, but also by making them more flexible. We have upgraded many of our hydro power plants to be able to start and stop, and even run at variable loads, to optimally meet on-demand energy requirements.
As with all forms of power generation, hydro power has environmental impacts, such as on aquatic ecosystems. To ensure that environmental protection measures, such as fish ladders, are effective and capital efficient, we are currently building a unique laboratory to study how ecosystems interact with various measures.
High performing operations
Using drones to inspect turbine blades
The conventional way to perform a safety inspection of wind power turbine blades is for climbers to hang suspended from the blades, perhaps a hundred metres above ground, for extended periods of time. This is a challenging and risky assignment, especially for offshore wind farms that are highly dependent on favourable weather conditions.
We are currently testing drones to inspect turbine blades in a safer, more accurate and more cost-effective way. Drones can fly close to the blades and deliver detailed high-resolution images and movies that show the smallest scratch in a matter of minutes. This will allow us to significantly reduce the number of man-hours required for an inspection, and thereby reduce both costs and safety risks.