Research and Development

Research and development activities enable us to develop innovative solutions that support our strategy and help find new ways for us, our partners, and our customers accelerate the transition to a fossil-free future.

Are you curious about what we do at Vattenfall Research & Development? We show you examples of our research and development within the field of wind, water and nuclear power.

In recent years, the focus of Vattenfall's research and development (R&D) activities has shifted away from electricity generation to more customer-centric areas with greater emphasis on digitalisation, decentralised solutions for customers, e-mobility and new ways of using electricity.

Our focus is on how we best can use technology and new solutions to execute our strategy and create customer value. Toward this end, we are collaborating regularly in pilot projects with partners and customers.

Our R&D organisation has approximately 130 full-time employees, but a great deal of development also takes place within the individual business areas. Total R&D spend in 2017 was SEK 547 million.

Hydro power – developing into the future

Analytics for climate-smart customers and grid services

Reduce emissions from cement production

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Hydro power – developing into the future

Vattenfall is working in a multitude of ways to increase the efficiency of its hydro power plants and reduce their environmental impacts. Digitalisation is one such area that is opening a world of new opportunities.

To develop the best environment possible for the ecosystems surrounding our plants, we have built a new laboratory in Älvkarleby, Sweden, creating a unique resource to study the effectiveness of various technical solutions to improve fish migration. In real rivers, remote-controlled drones and vehicles equipped with cameras and sonar systems have scanned riverbeds. From the compiled data it is possible to construct detailed digital models of the rivers, which can then be used to better predict the environmental impact. One purpose is to construct fish ladders in an optimal way and increase the success of up- and downstream migrations. Through cooperation with biological and technical experts from Swedish colleges and universities, we are building up a new combined competence to achieve optimal results.

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To increase the efficiency of our plants and be better prepared for the future, we are studying and developing new techniques to optimise plant operations and maintenance. For example, we are testing how the increased demand for flexibility (not running at steady state) affects our turbines in a turbine test rig.

The large amount of data from sensors placed in modern hydro plants as well as in the dams, combined with the development of advanced data analytics, is creating new opportunities to get a clear picture of the state of a dam, or of a plant and its components. In this way we can detect problems before they lead to a disruption and thereby optimise maintenance and prevent potentially greater problems in the future.

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Analytics for climate-smart customers and grid services

The ongoing digitalisation is providing us with a wealth of advanced data, and Vattenfall is exploring ways of using this data to create even greater value. Through analytics we can create opportunities for our customers to act more climate-smart while enabling us to modernise our monitoring of the grid and better manage its flexibility.

End-user applications and benefits

Smart meters are a technological advancement that were originally installed to enable automatic billing. Digitalisation and advanced analytics are now opening up new possibilities.

Data about customers' actual energy consumption can be used in many ways. One example is to offer customers a clear visualisation of their energy consumption patterns, enabling them to spot anomalies and identify opportunities to save energy. Such an application has been developed and is now being tested in a pilot project including more than 2,000 Vattenfall customers.

Such advancements will enable us to control and level out the energy consumption automatically, without reducing customers' comfort. For customers with own solar or wind power systems, load shifting can be tailored to harmonise consumption with their own generation. Customer benefit can be further enhanced with the addition of batteries and energy storage systems.

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System applications and benefits

Vattenfall uses information from smart meters, sensors and switches installed in the grid to visualise the grids digitally. Outages can be located automatically, with much greater precision and almost instantaneously, leading to faster grid restoration and reduced outage times. This is an important improvement for our customers, especially in the countryside, where outages typically take a longer time to remedy than in urban areas.

Voltage levels and quality of the grid in specific areas can also be measured remotely, something that is important both when planning grid reinforcement, but also when planning for new buildings or development of new city areas. Avoiding unnecessary grid reinforcement saves costs for both for us as the grid operator and for the customers. The other side of the coin is that we can start planning for reinforcement of the grid before customers experience low voltage levels when electricity use rises.

At a system level, the introduction of more solar and wind power is leading to greater interest in using batteries to level out consumption, or in shifting consumption to periods of high generation from these sources. Smart system services, which minimise balancing and load-shifting costs while maximising consumption of these renewable energies, will be attractive to grid operators as well as for end customers and will facilitate the shift towards an energy system based on 100% renewables.

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Reduce emissions from cement production

There are two main sources of CO2 emissions when producing cement: approximately 60% of emissions are process- related and are released from the limestone when heated, and roughly 40% are combustion-related. Vattenfall has partnered with Cementa AB in a project aimed at electrifying the heating process in cement production to eliminate the combustion-related emissions.

Cementa's goal is to have a zero CO2-emitting process over the life cycle of cement by 2030, which would represent a reduction of Sweden's total CO2 emissions by about 5%. The company has worked for years with energy efficiency measures and actions to decrease its use of fossil fuels, and this has led to a lower environmental impact. But to achieve the zero CO2-emitting goal for 2030, a complete shift of technology is necessary – including both a switch of fuel for the heating process and a method for dealing with the processrelated CO2.

Within the framework of the CemZero project, Vattenfall and Cementa are studying the possibilities to electrify the cement making process. To produce cement, limestone is heated up to approximately 1,450 degrees Celsius and then cooled down and ground together with sand and gypsum. Switching to fossil-free electricity for the heating process will eliminate approximately 40% of the CO2 emissions from the start. The limestone will still emit CO2 when heated, but by using an electrified process the CO2 emissions will be more pure and thus easier to capture and take care of.

This partnership with Cementa AB is one of our initiatives together with large industries to introduce new climate smarter solutions that address emissions from industrial processes and products. We are also working together with LKAB/ SSAB and Preem on two other projects aimed at using electricity to eliminate fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Last updated: 2018-03-28 11:17