News item | 2012-04-30 | 09:00 AM

Competence saved an industry

Enough is enough. That was the conclusion reached a few years ago by the heads of the department of hydro power dam construction and safety at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. But that was before the Swedish Hydropower Centre was founded in 2006. Now the centre is evaluating its second three-year period of operation.

Those few years ago, the university heads said that if industry players did not invest more in developing the industry, there would no longer be any point in running the university programmes associated with it. Around that time Swedish advances in hydro power and dam technology – a science that had existed for 100 years – had stagnated. No new major investment projects existed. Swedish universities were no longer able to attract as many students to hydropower-related programmes and, of course, the number of graduates in these areas declined.

Turbine and generator manufacturers were closing down, and construction companies with competence in dam-building were starting to look elsewhere for business. Somehow, a consensus had been reached: most of the technological advancements that could be achieved in Sweden had already been realised.

Niklas Dahlbäck

“It was serious,” says Niklas Dahlbäck, Programme Manager for Vattenfall Hydro power R&D, and Chairman of one of the steering groups at the Swedish Hydro power Centre (SVC). “We needed to do something immediately, and we decided to establish the SVC as a platform for securing and reinforcing Sweden’s competence and knowledge in hydro power.”

But today, SVC aims to be a competence centre for innovative ideas in this industry. The centre provides researchers and graduates with a holistic view of hydro power technology and promotes knowledge-sharing. Above all, the SVC wants to put hydro power back in the spotlight as a renewable part of Sweden’s energy supply.

“One of our most important activities is financing senior researchers,” Dahlbäck says. “They are responsible for developing a sustainable high-quality environment of competence in fields that are important for hydro power and that wouldn’t otherwise be included in Swedish university curricula. We’ve made a change for the better as we’re creating a better understanding for this industry.”

The SVC is financed by the Swedish Energy Authority, the industry research organisation Elforsk and Svenska Kraftnät (the Swedish national grid), in cooperation with Lulea University of Technology, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Uppsala University and Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg. The industry is represented in the SVC by companies such as Vattenfall, Eon, Fortum and Sweco. Vattenfall is the centre’s most active industrial partner, and the company’s share in the programme is 25 per cent.