KTH Energy Dialogue 2020
KTH Energy Dialogue 2020 was held as a live digital broadcast with special focus on the country’s energy competence centres where R&D is being conducted into energy sources set to pave the way to a more sustainable future.
This year’s KTH Energy Dialogue was held as a digital meeting that was broadcast live from Tekniska museet in Stockholm. As last year, the event was moderated by Willy Silberstein. KTH Energy Platform Director, Lina Bertling Tjernberg, and Christophe Duwig, Deputy Director, were in the studio from where the event was broadcast.
President emphasizes system thinking
KTH president, Sigbritt Karlsson, welcomed participants by stressing that the energy sector is one of the university’s top R&D fields. KTH’s goals include contributing to the development of a more sustainable future in line with Agenda 2030. This is where the Energy Platform has a key role to play because some of the most fundamental societal changes relate to energy supply.
Systems thinking is one of the most important factors in this process, together with a life cycle approach, Karlsson said. She also described her pride in KTH’s ongoing research in the energy field, and the collaborations that exist within KTH, as well as with industry and the local community.
After the introductory remarks, Bertling Tjernberg presented KTH’s Energy Platform, emphasizing its role as an inclusive meeting place for all researchers at KTH interested in energy, where all are welcome for cross-silo cooperation.
Duwig, Deputy Director, revealed a new feature for this year’s event: a virtual meeting place that gathered some 40 pre-recorded presentations of projects in the energy field. You can watch all these presentations on Youtube .
Sweden’s key role
The programme included three panel discussions, the first of which was entitled Energy Research – Strategies, Challenges and Possibilities. Robert Andrén, Director General and Head of the Swedish Energy Agency, introduced the session and highlighted the fact that about 75 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are energy-related. Considerable potential therefore exists, he argued, to contribute to more sustainable development.
He said that Sweden alone could contribute to a reduction in emissions of a million tonnes (one gigaton) through R&D and by exporting energy innovations, adding that the Swedish Energy Agency has an important role to play as one of the country's largest financial backers in this area.
Andrén cited Hybrit as an example of a successful national venture that also offers great opportunities for the international export of knowledge, new technologies and methods. To succeed, continued collaboration between industry, academia and the public sector is extremely important, he emphasized.
He also spoke about the forthcoming call for funding for new competence centres in the energy sector: a long-term investment to build strong networks between academia and business.
Annika Viklund, CEO of Vattenfall Distribution, then presented details of the company’s goal of making it possible to live fossil-free within a generation. She also emphasized the importance of the Hybrit project and the participation in Coordinate, which aims to create greater flexibility in the energy system. Flexibility was vital, Viklund said, to create a more sustainable future from a systems perspective.
Looking ahead, Viklund said she could see how a more environmentally friendly world could emerge in the coming 10 years thanks to today’s bold, collaborative decisions on electrification. She also said that there was no conflict between business and climate action - both share the same goal of meeting demands for a more sustainable future.
Vice-Chancellor Mikael Östling went on to say that KTH’s research focuses on contributing to global sustainability goals, not least through major investment in infrastructure. Energy research at KTH can contribute in all areas from energy extraction to storage and distribution.
Bertling Tjernberg said that it was important to adopt systems thinking in the short and long term. Both by manufacturing new batteries with existing methods, and by working long-term on, among other things, material development. Furthermore, we must have an international perspective in everything we do to be part of global development, a process in which Sweden can make a substantial contribution, she said. Electrification and digitalization will make a big difference, she said, but we need more opportunities to meet, help one another and develop together.
The importance of collaboration and education
The day’s second panel discussion was entitled Energy Research and Contributions to Agenda 2030 and was opened by Professor Göran Lindbergh, who heads the PUSH research center. He provided an insight into the work at the newly started centre that has the goal of developing methods for producing hydrogen from water and renewable electricity, as well as creating new opportunities to facilitate energy storage and distribution.
He emphasized the growing role of hydrogen in the energy sector, a field in which one of the goals of the centre is to see how hydrogen can contribute to meeting society’s energy needs.
Pär Olsson then gave a walk-through of the SUNRISE research center, which seeks to work for a sustainable society through the development of a new lead-cooled nuclear reactor for research purposes by 2030. This fourth generation reactor is set to be highly significant internationally as it will be cheaper to manufacture and build than previous reactors.
The initiative still faces several challenges, especially in terms of materials, Olsson said, but the research group has gathered a unique set of competences needed to succeed.
The panel also included a presentation by Tuula Teeri, CEO of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA). She emphasized IVA’s role as a bridge builder between different sectors with the aim of contributing fact-based documentation to legislation and policy decisions.
Today’s challenges include replacing fossil-based energy sources with renewables - an area where Sweden has a competitive advantage due to its access to hydropower.
Teeri emphasized that IVA believes that it is possible for Sweden to achieve today’s ambitious climate goals, but that the whole of society needs to contribute. However, a large increase in the energy supply is needed, driven by biomass and other renewable sources. Co-operation is the only way to succeed, she said, in everything from education and leadership, to changing individuals’ behaviours. Collaboration is also needed at the global level so that technologies and solutions developed in Sweden reach the entire world’s population. Without a joint international effort, it will be difficult to achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals, she said.
Annika Stensson Trigell, Vice-Chancellor for Research, emphasized how several interdisciplinary collaborations at KTH have an impact on society, highlighting the importance of both basic and more applied research. Education is an important factor with KTH attracting growing numbers of international Master’s and doctoral students, which in turn demands that the education and research provided by KTH is internationally competitive.
Olga Kordas, Programme Director for Viable Cities, set out how Agenda 2020 and the Paris Agreement provide a focus on the shift from growth through innovation to sustainable development. It is important to see the transformation from a systems perspective, Kordas said. Technical development alone is not enough, but a transformation of business models is also required, along with financing and behavioural change.
The big question is what new skills and collaborations are needed to succeed. New technical solutions are available today, Kordas said, adding that more technologies are being developed and called for the identification of new ways to implement them in our daily lives.
Göran Lindbergh added that a large part of the introduction of new technologies is down to good education where students will contribute to change through their knowledge.
It is therefore especially important that we continue to attract international students, emphasized Pär Olsson, who spoke about the large proportion of international students who apply for the Master’s programmes in nuclear energy technology at KTH.
Inclusive innovation is the way forward, Teeri pointed out, with the greatest impact flowing from educating students well. We need to take global responsibility and allow new technologies developed in Sweden to spread internationally.
Four national competence centres
The last panel of the day was entitled Overview of Energy Research Centres, and included presentations about four competence centres in the field of energy. Linda Olofsson, director of the Swedish Electromobility Centre (SEC) opened the session. She gave an introduction to the SEC, which brings together the Swedish automotive industry and technical universities in a national competence centre for electric and hybrid vehicles and infrastructure. Work is conducted in five areas, including energy storage and energy mobility in society.
The Swedish Centre for Nuclear Technology (SKC) was presented by its director Merja Pukari, and a longer presentation of the competence centre is available to read in this article .
Next up was Klas Engvall from the Swedish Gasification Centre, which is a national platform with three research nodes for research, development and postgraduate education in the field of biomass gasification. Eight of the country’s higher education institutions participate here together with a number of industry partners.
The session was rounded off by Rajeev Thottappillil, director of the Swedish Centre for Smart Grids and Energy Storage (SweGRIDS) – you can read an article from SweGRIDS’ most recent conference here .
KTH Energy Dialogue 2020 was organized by Bertling Tjernberg and Duwig who could look back on a packed agenda. They concluded with an invitation to a workshop on January 26th on how electrification in the transport sector can be accelerated .
Finally, a prize was awarded to Fredrik Heiding and Deniz Yildiz for the two best presentations in the virtual exhibition that ran alongside the event. You can read a short interview with the winners here .
The next KTH Energy Dialogue will be held on November 18th 2021.
You can watch the whole event here (YouTube).