As part of its yearly delegation trip, the ADS arranged a visit to Västerbotten County with the support of the Västerbotten region and the Västerbotten Chamber of Commerce. This year’s theme centered around the county’s pioneering role in Sweden’s green transition.
The green transition has been a major topic of discussion and in 2015, Sweden set the ambitious goal of becoming the world’s first fossil-free welfare nation by 2045. This goal has been widely supported by the Swedish public and government and it has led to a surge of investment in green technology and infrastructure. Västerbotten is home to a number of these investments and key industries that are transitioning to more sustainable practices. This became apparent during the presentation of Mr. Anders Hjalmarsson, the CEO of Västerbotten Chamber of Commerce.
One of the most exciting developments in Västerbotten is the emergence of the Nordic battery belt. The region is becoming a global hub for the production of lithium-ion batteries, which are essential for electric vehicles and renewable energy storage. In connection to this, Northvolt, one of the world’s leading battery manufacturers, is building its largest battery factory in Skellefteå, Västerbotten. The factory is expected to produce 40 GWh of batteries per year, enough to power 800,000 electric vehicles. Ms. Kristina Sundin Jonsson, Director of the Municipality of Skellefteå explained the transformation the city will undergo when increasing the number of inhabitants and as well the challenges such as of attracting talent.
Another exciting project in the region is the development of a test route for electrically powered and vertical-starting aircraft (eVTOL) between Skellefteå Airport and Northvolt One. The test route will be used to test the feasibility of using eVTOLs to transport batteries from the factory to airports. The investments in aircraft drones are part of its broader commitment to achieving fossil-free aviation in Sweden by 2045.
During the visit to VAKIN, a public utility company providing water and waste handling, the group was introduced to some of its projects under the green transition. For instance the company has implemented a number of water conservation measures, such as installing rainwater harvesting systems and fixing leaky pipes. To help with this, the company Flow Below, has provided solutions for tracking water. Two additional local companies presented their solutions that supports the green transition; Seaflex that provides mooring solutions for any floating application (such as wave energy converters) and W3 Energy that provides asset management for cold climate windfarms
The County Governor Ms. Helene Hellmark Knutsson, hosted a dinner for the visiting delegation and also inviting local businesses and public officials. The guest of honour, former Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations Mr. Jan Eliasson shared his thoughts on current developments and experiences as Swedish diplomat.
Throughout the visit, various presenters highlighted the region’s struggle in attracting talent. This topic received academic scrutiny from Mr. Dieter Müller, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Umeå University. According to the 2020 European Social Progress Index, the region ranks at the forefront among all European Union regions in providing its citizens with basic human needs, establishing the foundations of well-being, and creating opportunities.
However, attracting talent remains a challenge, partly due to the region’s remote location, cold climate, and relatively small population. To address these issues, policy changes are necessary to enhance the region’s attractiveness to potential residents.
The region is also home to Kvarken Ports, which has been expanding its ports in northern Sweden. The expansion includes a new container terminal at the port of Umeå, which will be able to handle larger vessels and increase capacity. One of the most significant developments in Kvarken Ports’ green transition is the implementation of the ferry Aurora Botnia. This state-of-the-art ferry is powered by both liquefied natural gas (LNG) and batteries, making it one of the most environmentally friendly ferries in the world.
Group photo of the delegation, outside the new Komatsu forest production facility which has a focus on sustainable production and IoT.
We at ADS are happy to see that our visit has encouraged several bilateral follow-up visits.