Sweden’s energy independence and green innovation should be a “good selling point” as it seeks to join the NATO security alliance, the country’s energy minister has told Sky News.
Khashayar Farmanbar also said he was “really concerned” about how reliant the rest of Europe still is on Russian oil and gas, and that Sweden was leading by example.
Speaking to Sky News at a new green steel project in Lulea in the north of the country, he said: “Compared to a lot of other NATO countries… I would say that we are one of the most energy secure.
“The green transition creates a lot of new jobs, it gives us energy security, but it also honestly helps us save the planet so it can be habitable for humankind in the future.
“And I think that in itself is a very good selling point for Sweden’s application to NATO.”
When asked if Europe had some lessons to learn from Sweden, which has almost entirely decarbonised its electricity production with a mixture of hydropower, nuclear and wind, he replied: “Definitely, I would say… we are here to cooperate and make sure that happens.
“The need for Europe and the whole world to stop using fossil fuels is immense.
“That job must continue at a rapid pace.
“What this aggression that Russia is doing against Ukraine has shown is that we need to even further speed up this process, and if there is anything Sweden can do it is to lead by example, and show how we can be less dependent on fossil fuel in general, but specifically on Russia energy imports.”
He also criticised the UK’s decision to grant new licences to extract fossil fuels in the North Sea, calling it “the wrong way to go in the long run”.
He said: “I see how some countries want to do that in the short term.
“Because right now… getting rid of the Russian fossil imports might be really challenging. But in the long run, that is the wrong way to go.”
Mr Farmanbar spoke to Sky News at a new first-of-its-kind green hydrogen storage facility, where reserves of the pressurised gas are kept in a specially sealed cavern deep underground.
The facility is part of what is known as the HYBRIT green steel project, a collaboration between the SSAB steel company, the LKAB mining company and the Vattenfall energy company.
Steel manufacturing has been notoriously hard to decarbonise because coal is burned and carbon emitted as part of the production process.
Steel is also a critical material for the modern world – used in everything from homes, bridges, hospitals and schools to cars and turbines.
Its widespread use is why the steel manufacturing industry is responsible for nearly 8% of global carbon emissions.
But the HYBRIT project has managed to come up with a way to swap coal with green hydrogen, eliminating the dirtiest bit of the process.
Mikael Nordlander, the director of industry decarbonisation at HYBRIT, said: “When we started doing this in 2016 it was in some cases perceived like a crazy idea but now, six years later, we’ve come tremendously far.
“It actually works.”
Small batches of green steel have already been used in construction vehicles made by the Volvo company, but it is very new technology and won’t be commercially available for several years.
It is also around 20-30% more expensive to make than traditional steel, although costs are expected to come down when production ramps up.
Volvo Cars’ head of procurement, Kerstin Enochsson is confident that consumers will be willing to pay a green premium, and is overseeing a plan to eventually make all the company’s vehicles from green steel.
On the production plant floor in Gothenburg, she told Sky News: “Maybe it is a bit more expensive but at the same time we do see that C02 is a cost as well.
“I’m so sure that our customers in the long run will demand fossil-free products. We are sure this is the right bet.”
SSAB’s chief technology officer Martin Pei said: “We believe this is the right way for the steel industry and this will be also a good step for us to take in our business, because we believe this will be the future way to make steel.
“And we want to be the ones that show the way and create this market, and our customers initially will be prepared to pay a small premium to make this happen and that will be good for everyone.”
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