Securing the energy transition with the right skills supply now – an urgent matter

– This government is doing precisely what’s needed to worsen the skills supply in our industry!
This is the opinion of the Swedish Electricians’ Association, which organised a panel discussion at Elfack on the risks to the Swedish energy supply. And their criticism was not merciful. Faster deployment, long-term rules and, not least, an increased focus on education were all high on the panellists’ wish list.

The skills issue is a hot topic in the electricity and energy industry, and in the days before this year’s Elfack, several industry representatives wrote on Dagens Industri’s discussion page that securing access to qualified personnel is a matter in need of urgent attention, if the energy transition is to be realised in practice.

So what is required for companies and households to be able to rely on the Swedish energy supply? This was the fundamental question posed in the Swedish Electricians’ Association’s panel debate on the current risks.

– The reason we have initiated this debate is our genuine concern that current energy policy will have hugely negative consequences for Sweden, explained Petter Johansson, ombudsman at the Swedish Electricians’ Association.

– We were far from satisfied with everything the previous government did, but if you compare it with the current government, it’s like comparing a Porsche with a Trabant. The Moderate Party government is the lapdog of a climate-change denialist Sweden Democrats, while we in the electricity business face enormous challenges.

There is a serious shortage of technicians and engineers

Petter Johansson mentions the increased prices, the deteriorating security situation in Europe and the risk of power shortages as examples of the risks. He says that the common denominator for solving them is a better supply of expertise.

– There are too few trained electricians in Sweden, which poses major security policy risks as we rely on hired foreign labour. This also makes us vulnerable because there are not enough people who can build, operate and maintain the network.

During the debate, he was supported by the panel’s two representatives from the business community.

– We know that the decisive factor in Volvo and Northvolt choosing to locate their next battery factory in Gothenburg was that in this region we made enormous efforts to ensure the supply of skills, said Patrik Andersson, CEO of Business Region Göteborg.

– If we had not been able to make this huge investment, they would have chosen somewhere else.

Efwa Nilsson, Regional Manager West at Energiföretagen Sverige, also emphasised the skills supply as crucial.

– This is an industry that is vital to society, and we need a huge investment in technicians and engineers, because we need eight thousand new employees in our sphere alone. There is an urgent need. We need more places for trainees. Who else could do the job?

Key factors for a stable Swedish energy supply in future

Petter Johansson strongly criticises the fact that, despite the skills shortage, the government has chosen to withdraw funding for the vocational school at Åsbro Kursgård.
– The government is currently implementing a number of reforms that are actually harmful. We have schools that are doing a great job, but you are withdrawing the money that was targeted to create training places in this sector. You are, indeed, worsening the supply of skills in the sector – with great precision.

His accusation was directed at panellist Larry Söder, Member of Parliament for the Christian Democrats, who explained that sometimes MPs have to deal with reality and that in this particular budget there was a need for other policy initiatives, but this may change in the future.

However, the rest of the panel was not interested in a “wait and see” attitude. Petter Johansson, Efwa Nilsson and Patrik Andersson all pointed out that rapid expansion of both training places and electricity supply is crucial for ensuring a stable supply of energy for Sweden in the future.

– The political discussion about production right now is very unintelligent, to speak plainly, Petter Johansson says.

– There is a lot of talk about nuclear power, but in the short term it is onshore wind power that is needed, and in the medium term it is offshore wind power. In the long term, nuclear power may be required, but we cannot sit still and wait for it.

He is supported by Patrik Andersson, who believes that if we do not achieve more energy production before 2030, this will not only present problems for GDP but also the entire climate transition. Efwa Nilsson says the same thing:

– We cannot divert more power from the national rivers; we need more energy production throughout Sweden, and we need it now. We can put aside the squabble about types of power. I wish instead that politics would provide us with long-term direction and more focus on reducing the skills shortage.

You can find out more about the entire Elfack stage programme here ».