Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE credits
The smart grid is a popular and well-debated topic in the energy industry
right now. The concept itself has a variety of definitions, both followers and
opponents have their opinions. The smart grid has been a discussed on
both the national and international market. In Sweden, the smart grid has
received increased interest and numerous stakeholders. This applies both
among politicians with organizations such as The Smart Grid Council, but
also at energy producers Vattenfall and giant engineering companies like
ABB. What happens in the future is still uncertain but there is reason to
believe that the Swedish grid is becoming smarter, at least with respect to
all the attention it gets.
The purpose of this paper has been to examine the realization of a smart
grid in Sweden, by examining possible incentives and barriers.
As mentioned, the concept of smart grids is widely debated and relatively
undefined. Therefore the work started by utilizing a definition which had to
be well established, accepted and correlated with the authors' approach
and aim. The chosen definition comes from the European Commission
(2010) and reads:
“A Smart Grid is an electricity network that can cost efficiently integrate the
behaviour and actions of all users connected to it – generators, consumers
and those that do both – in order to ensure economically efficient, sustainable
power system with low losses and high levels of quality and security of supply
A theoretical framework was developed in order to obtain facts,
information, and serve as tools for future analyses. For example, the
authors selected The evolution of large technological systems by Thomas
Hughes (1987), which describes large technological systems and how they
develop in society. Further Marx’s ”Das Kapital” (1867) and several earlier
research regarding smart grids were also selected and used for the
Potential stakeholders and key-actors were pointed out and examined to
get a picture of the current situation regarding the smart grid in Sweden.
Three main areas of key-actors were chosen: academia, business, and
political/governmental organizations. Nine qualitative interviews were
conducted with actors who were considered to have good insight and
influence in the area. The collected material and information was analyzed
by the following aspects: financial, technological, sociological, and
environmental. The following results were found through the interviews:
Almost all interviewed key-actors pointed out the economic factor
as the decisive aspect for a Swedish smart grid realization in
Sweden. At present, it was not considered to be sufficient economic
It was pointed out that the electricity in Sweden is very cheap and
therefore customers are not interested in paying more for it,
especially not big ones like major industries. The uncertainty about
who will pay for the necessary renovations of the existing power
grid was also pointed out.
Many of the interviewed actors saw great potential in the political
guidelines and regulations. They considered that more stringent
requirements and rules that favours a smarter and greener
electricity, would lead the development towards a smart grid.
The technical aspect of a smart grid was not considered to be an
obstacle. On the contrary, most of the technology was considered
A summative finding was that the majority of actors did not believe
in a revolution of the smart grid in the near future. They rather saw
it as an evolutionary process that may emerge.
Several findings correlate well with the theoretical framework. For instance, Beise
& Rennings (2004) confirms the importance of political regulations. Their view on
the smart grid as an evolution that will adapt little by little follows the arguments
that Hughes describes. The value-aspect of the smart grid and the fact that is not
considered to be enough today, at least not in an economical way, follows Marx’s
theory of value from 1867. The smart grid development fitted well into Leonard-
Barton’s (1998) aspect of mutual adaption, which points out that both the users
and the technology have to be changed in order to achieve success.
The conclusion was drawn that most of the actors are in favour of a smart grid,
but they did not see that there will be a "smart revolution" in the next few years
given the current financial barriers.