The Nordic countries have brought their renewable energy expertise to South Africa for African Utility Week and shown how serious they are about reducing carbon emissions.
Sweden’s State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Niklas Johansson, on Tuesday said the European country had the most stringent renewable energy targets in the industrialised world, with plans for 100% renewable energy by 2040.
“Climate change is the biggest threat to the world as we know it, regardless where we live. It is our responsibility to meet the challenge,” he told thousands of delegates gathered for the African Utility Week and PowerGEN Africa event, in Cape Town.
He said it was only possible to reach renewable energy targets through efficient collaboration and technologies. But he was upbeat about the power of renewables, even at times of great economic growth.
“Over the past 25 years, Sweden has outpaced Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development growth by 25%. At the same time, it has been able to seriously reduce emissions, showing that a decoupling of growth and emissions is possible.”
Johansson said it was time to "steer our societies in a new direction". While the energy sector played a central role, sectors such as transport, construction, agriculture and industry also needed to use more renewable energy.
Johansson said energy-intensive industries in Sweden, such as steelmaking and mining, were starting to take the lead in fossil-free competitiveness.
“We want to show that real transition is possible, even in steel and cement.”
He shared the example of the introduction of clean energy at one of the world’s highest quality iron-ore mines in Sweden, where the use of coal-fired power will be replaced with fossil free electricity and hydrogen. Steel plants will emit water vapour instead of carbon dioxide.
“We are working together to make steel without coal. We have introduced hydrogen gas to get away from the centuries of making steel with coal. If you could change steel manufacturing in this way, you would save 6% or 7% of greenhouse gases in the world.
Large delegations from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden are taking part in African Utility Week and the PowerGEN Africa conference in a series of events. Termed ‘Nordic Utility Days’ they encompass the water and energy value chain. Nordic countries have become known for their promotion of innovation, with a focus on effective system integration and grid stability.
The events aim to foster dialogue between various stakeholders, including governments, civil society organisations and business leaders to address strategic, cost-effective and climate-friendly water and energy solutions.
“We are at a time where it is not just possible but also economically viable and beneficial to transition to a clean energy future . . . and thus achieve the climate commitments of the Paris Agreement on climate change,” Johansson said.
Exhibitors from Nordic countries are displaying products and services covering everything from smart grids and solar energy to cloud solutions and intelligent measurement.