15 - 17 Nov 2022

Own electricity generation can reduce the impact of high electricity prices

Own electricity generation can reduce the impact of high electricity prices
Unusually high electricity prices are placing new demands on the Swedish manufacturing industry. The challenge is to maintain profitability and confidence in the future with electricity costs, in many cases, doubling.
Gjuteriteknik in Värnamo has long since chosen its path with wind turbines and solar cells - which meant that in 2021 it produced 50% more energy than it was using.
- 'The way our industry is today, it's too expensive if you're not engaged in the issue,' says Jonas Abrahamsson, CEO, Gjuteriteknik.

It started with two small hydroelectric power stations in the 1970s. Some 40 years later, Gjuteriteknik built its first wind turbine and in 2020 solar cells were installed on the site. So, producing your own electricity is not a new item on the agenda for Jonas Abrahamsson and Gjuteriteknik.

  - Zinc die-casting is energy-intensive and our biggest environmental footprint by far is the energy used in the process when we melt metal. That was kind of our approach when we invested in our first wind turbine in 2008. Previously, we'd had two small hydro plants dating back to the 1970s and had always produced our own electricity. But a wind turbine in 2008 was early and the timing was immature. Not everyone was nearly as enthusiastic as we were," he says.

  Since then, a lot has happened. A wind turbine became a wind farm, which in 2020 was augmented with solar panels on the site. The results quickly showed - last year, Gjuteriteknik produced 50 percent more electricity than it used.

  - Attitudes turned around five or six years ago and clear sustainability work became more accepted. At the same time, we felt we wanted to continue to evolve - there's a lot of greenwashing today where outright bad companies produce nice presentations about their sustainability work. We're not doing this to score free points in the market, but because we want to do something really positive for the future," he says.


Start with small steps

Jonas Abrahamsson doesn't think that a wind farm and solar cells are the right strategy for every company, but he is happy to encourage other entrepreneurs to gain more knowledge and get involved in the energy issue, not least to be able to withstand any crises.

  - Our investment in wind power will be uneconomic during years when there is plenty of cheap electricity, but in other times, like now, it will be very profitable. At the same time, an investment like this is for 30 years and if you zoom out from that perspective you will experience everything. That's how we think all the time. So there's no point in cheering one year when electricity prices are high, any more than we can't cry when it's the other way round. It's expected to go up and down," he says.

  Not all problems need to be solved right away, says Jonas Abrahamsson, and it's enough to start the journey with a small step.

  - The first step might be just to put up a few solar panels. After that, interest and commitment grow, and as soon as you get engaged, you learn more. Only then does it become clear which big steps are worth taking. There is no right or wrong," he says, adding:

  - 'The way our industry is today, if you're not in the know, it's too expensive. You simply have to be committed and knowledgeable. The best trick I can give is to just dive into it and then let your interest and knowledge drive your strategy.


At least one new client

When Gjuteriteknik exhibits at Elmia Subcontractor this year, the tone around sustainability and in-house electricity generation will be very different from 14 years ago when the first wind turbine was installed. Now it is necessary to show the company's sustainability work to the outside world, and Elmia Subcontractor is an important showcase for Gjuteriteknik in this respect.

  - We exhibit at two or three trade fairs a year and Elmia Subcontractor is very special with a huge amount gained from all kinds of meetings. It's almost impossible to see how a week in the office would bring more customers than a week in the swarm at Elmia," says Jonas Abrahamsson.

  Gjuteriteknik always goes to Elmia Subcontractor with a clear ambition - at least one new customer. But it's not just new customers and business that are important for Gjuteriteknik at Elmia Subcontractor. Jonas Abrahamsson also highlights the advantage of meeting other stakeholders, who in one way or another help the company to develop.

  - We talked about export and sustainability with Almi during Elmia Subcontractor last autumn. After a week or so, I contacted them and since then they have helped us to raise the ambition of our sustainability work. This would never have happened if we hadn't made that initial contact at the fair. It was a totally unexpected contact, but also worth all the days as an exhibitor.