Fossil-free electricity – nothing strange, just nature itself
Hydropower allows us to generate electricity by directly utilizing the water’s natural eco cycle, whenever it suits us. Hydropower is flexible – water can be stored in reservoirs to allow adjustment of power generation to meet consumption needs – leaving scope for the expansion of Sweden’s other renewable energy sources. Hydropower has enabled Sweden to develop one of the world’s best electricity systems and to be a global role model for many other countries around the world. Hydropower could be regarded as Sweden’s own natural superpower that will continue to provide us with electricity for tomorrow’s electrical innovations.
Hydropower – Sweden’s superpower
Hydropower is Sweden's superpower. Since 1882, hydroelectric power has supplied Sweden with renewable electricity.
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An ancient natural power source
Humans have been harnessing the power of running water since time immemorial. In Southern Europe and China, for example, water wheels have been used to mill grain for more than 2,000 years. Here in Sweden, we can find laws from the 13th century about how water mills should be built.
Sweden’s first modern hydropower plant was commissioned in 1882. Today, we have slightly more than 2,000 hydropower plants, of which several are more than a hundred years old.
Hydropower has come to form the foundation of our electricity system and currently accounts for more than 40% of our electricity generation.
Hydropower provides us both with baseload power and with balancing power
At present, electricity cannot be stored to any great extent. Instead, we have to produce the exact amount of electricity we need at any given moment. Maintaining the precise balance between supply and demand is not the simplest of feats. Sweden is a country where the weather causes changing preconditions for the generation of and the demand for electricity. Having sufficient electricity to meet our needs, including changes in our demand for electricity, requires two components: stable baseload power and sufficient balancing power to adjust electricity generation to meet our changing demand for electricity. Hydropower provides us with both of these components.
Together with nuclear power, hydropower forms the foundation of the electricity system– a stable foundation that ensures the high quality and stability of our electricity supply. One advantage of hydropower is that it is flexible. The water utilized by the power plants is stored in reservoirs and used as needed. Hydropower thus functions as a battery for all of Sweden – an enormous natural power reserve that is available on a cold winter’s night when the demand for electricity is particularly high, and on a quiet summer’s day, when wind turbines are not turning.
Hydropower is just gaining in importance
The continuous supply of high-quality electricity by Sweden’s electricity system, whatever the conditions, requires all forms of energy to work together. It requires that we, in all situations, maintain the optimal balance between stable baseload power, adjustable balancing power and weather-dependent power sources. It is even more crucial to maintain this balance in pace with our increasing demand for electricity as society is digitalized, as more innovative solutions are developed, and as other sectors are electrified.
The greater our demand for electricity, the greater our need for balancing power. As the share of wind power increases in our electricity system, our need to balance electricity generation also increases, in order to meet demand – regardless of the weather. This means that the more our electricity generation is derived from renewable sources, the more prominent the role of hydropower.
High time hydropower is recognized
It is wonderful to harness the natural eco cycle of water to warm our houses, light our streets and freeze our food. Heat from the sun causes water from the ground, lakes, rivers and seas to evaporate and rise. As the air cools at higher altitudes, the evaporated water condenses to form clouds that then lead to precipitation in the form of rain or snow. Most water evaporation occurs in southern Sweden, while the most precipitation occurs in the Scandes mountain range, in the form of snow. The snow melts during spring and drains into the watercourses, and some of this water is collected in the reservoirs of hydropower plants. When needed, the water is used to generate energy. Once the water has left the turbines, it returns to the rivers and the eco cycle starts all over again. Power generation could not be more natural than this. Thanks to hydropower, Sweden’s electricity system is a global low-emissions role model, and we have the prerequisites to sustain high electricity consumption in the future.
Uniper is the third-largest hydropower producer in Sweden, with 76 wholly and jointly owned hydropower plants. Our hydropower plants located from Lycksele in the North to Kristianstad in the South provide a combined output of approximately 1,700 MW and an annual delivery of about 8,000 GWh of renewable electricity. This corresponds to approximately 12% of Sweden’s total hydropower production, and is equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of 400,000 Swedish houses!
We ensure Sweden has baseload power
As part of the global Uniper Group, we are a major electricity producer for Swedish base industry and a guarantor of stable and reliable electricity generation to meet Sweden’s electricity needs. Hydro, nuclear and reserve power are produced at our power plants located throughout the country. Our electricity is used to enable our society and our industries to function, regardless of weather and time of year.
In terms of hydropower, we’re the third-largest producer in Sweden. Our 76 wholly and jointly owned hydropower plants, distributed from Lycksele in the North to Kristianstad in the South, account for approximately 12% of Sweden’s total hydropower production. In terms of nuclear power, the Uniper Group is co-owner in all three of Sweden’s active nuclear power plants: at OKG in Oskarshamn, Ringhals and Forsmark.
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In the Swedish electricity system, hydro power is currently Sweden’s largest source of renewable energy. Together with nuclear power, hydropower is the foundation of the Swedish electricity system.
We are seeing rising demand for electricity as society develops and new innovations see the light of day. Consequently, balancing power becomes increasingly important, the more solar and wind power we utilize in the electricity system.
More than half of the global energy supply is still coal- and oil-based, but a bright future is within reach, if we can build up stable electricity systems all over the world that are as effective as ours in Sweden.