– We believe that the combination of wind power, hydrogen and nuclear power is the best solution for expanding new electricity production, says Niklas Johansson, LKAB's director of communications.
That the mining giant needs gigantic amounts of electricity to produce steel without coal in the future was clear to everyone in November 2020, when LKAB presented its plans for a carbon-free sponge iron plant in Malmfälten.
When it's fully developed in 2050, LKAB expects the plant will need 70 terawatt hours (TWh) per year, which is equivalent to almost half of Sweden's current electricity consumption.
– We want to build our operation gradually, which means we need increasing levels of electricity. But everything is based on cheap electricity in northern Sweden. If the expansion of electricity production does not take place at the rate planned, we cannot keep pace either. We we won't be able to build sponge iron plants if there is no low-cost energy, says Niklas Johansson.
Over the next decade, LKAB sees only one solution: a strong expansion of onshore wind power. But right now the pace of expansion is too slow.
– It is the absolute cheapest way to expand electricity production.There are companies queuing up to build wind farms, but they are not allowed to. What is needed in the short term are more permits for onshore wind power.
Niklas Johansson can't say exactly what LKAB's future energy needs will look like.
– If we are going to move away from oil, coal and gas, we cannot afford to exclude any form of power. In that case we should consider nuclear power and develop that technology in tandem with wind power. We can see that nuclear technology is progressing.
Smaller, modular nuclear reactors, known as SMRs, have been singled out as a solution for southern Sweden. It may also be relevant for Norrland. According to LKAB, only expanding nuclear power in southern Sweden is not enough.
When you first presented your plans, they didn't include electricity from nuclear power, did they? It has been added in the last year.
– LKAB has always said that Sweden cannot do without nuclear power. The question is what we combine it with. We believe in a combination of wind power and nuclear power.
Where and when will nuclear power reactors be built in northern Sweden?
– It's far too early to say. We don't believe it will happen for at least 10-15 years.