Only the wind power available on SCA land could rival the production of electricity from nuclear power relatively quickly. Unfortunately, permit processes and poor incentives reduce that potential to negligible amounts.
“This situation needs to be addressed for the competitiveness of northern Sweden. It is clear that the need for electricity will increase rapidly as electricity-intensive industries are established in the region and supply needs to increase,” says Ulf Larsson, SCA President and CEO.
As a major landowner, SCA currently has leases with wind power operators. Approximately 20 per cent of all Sweden’s wind turbines are located on SCA land. Current installed production capacity is approximately 7TWh.
Theoretically, that could be increased tenfold to 65TWh by 2040 through a combination of new builds and repowering of existing wind farms. Repowering means that one or more turbines are replaced by modern, larger and more efficient turbines at the same installation.
Expansion and repowering would see the number of turbines increase from almost 700 today to around 2,000, which would result in a production increase well in line with the 51TWh that nuclear power currently produces in Sweden.
“It would be an effective way to dramatically increase the electricity supply – and quickly, safeguard the favourable electricity price environment in the north of Sweden, and maintain Norrland’s attractiveness for investment. Unfortunately, there is a large number of obstacles. We believe that there is a very strong case for government action,” Larsson explains.
The time factor is a challenge. At present, permit approvals can take anything up to ten years. Another problem is that establishing electricity-producing sites creates local challenges, but tax on what is produced at these sites goes to the state.
This leaves municipalities with few benefits from such installations and unable to receive any new tax revenue from them.
“The system is wrong-headed and needs to be reviewed. It would be wise and fair to let a proportion of the electricity tax stay where renewable electricity is produced. This would strengthen incentives for electricity production and free us as landowners, together with municipalities, to find appropriate and responsible types of sites that improve local communities’ access to welfare and municipal services,” says Larsson.
Problems associated with lengthy and uncertain permit processes also affect opportunities to replace turbines with new, more modern versions that can produce more electricity.
Under current legislation, replacing a turbine at an existing site requires a completely new permit process, despite all surrounding infrastructure such as roads and power lines already being in place.
“In practice, this means that wind farms are not upgraded and fail to keep pace with technological advances because permit processes are prohibitive, expensive and involve a high degree of risk. Some form of fast track process is needed in which such decisions take a maximum of six months, and the use of already built-up areas is allowed to be more efficient,” concludes Larsson.