Industry’s Electrification and Role in the Future Electricity System
Trends visible today suggest that a transformation of industrial firms’ use of electricity, and a change in their role in the electricity system, could take place as a part of a long-term transition towards a low-carbon Swedish economy. The shape of these changes remains highly uncertain, but electrification, flexible electricity use, and emerging roles in the electricity system for industrial consumers are interdependent developments and should be investigated from a holistic perspective where possible.
Swedish industry is relatively energy intensive, and has stood for roughly 37% of the country’s electricity use for a decade. The Swedish Energy Agency’s Vivace scenario suggests that this share could expand, despite improved efficiency, to 49% by 2050. The increased use of electricity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and take advantage of market conditions would play out differently in different sectors, and depending on the development of different technologies. However large-scale opportunities may exist in the long-term, such as using electrolysis to produce hydrogen for replacing coke in the iron and steel industry and as a feedstock in the petrochemical industry.
Smaller-scale but still important options for electrification include electric/hybrid boilers in the pulp and paper industry and a variety of electro-thermal technologies for heating and drying.
Increased use of electricity in industry is likely to go hand-in-hand with increasingly flexible use of electricity. In some cases, such as the production of hydrogen or process media, this flexibility will be in-built since the storable energy carriers create new production planning options. In other cases, new approaches to planning, process design, and the use of automation may allow firms to match electricity use to favourable market conditions.
The expected high penetration of intermittent renewable electricity in the power system may create incentives for this flexibility. These incentives should appear on the wholesale market, in the form of high- and low-price periods. They may also appear via new capacity markets, or through markets for new system services needed to support stability in both transmission and distribution networks. The frameworks and regulations needed to create these markets are not yet in place, and firms will also need to develop technical and management capabilities to take advantage of them.