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September 3, 2020 11:31 AM

That's why Sweden must invest in sustainable infrastructure

For many reasons, infrastructure is in focus around the world, not least during the crisis that the world is currently in. Now we have the chance to reorganize and build a sustainable, competitive and strong society. Jakob Holm, CEO of the technology group Sdiptech, explains why investments in sustainable infrastructure are one of the most important efforts for Sweden to emerge from the crisis.

Aging infrastructure, growing population and urbanization that place higher demands on increased capacity. The infrastructure sector is deeply underinvested and there are undeniably many reasons to invest in the industry. The financial situation has also changed significantly and at the same time as we are in a crisis, unemployment is rising. An effective way to save jobs and support a declining economy is to invest in infrastructure. In the short term it can contribute to increased employment and subdued unemployment, in the long term it can result in recovery and growth. To quantify this, a Business Roundtable study shows that every dollar invested in US infrastructure over a twenty-year period adds $ 3.7 to the country's economy.

At the same time, there is an underlying driving force and demand for solutions that are functional, climate-smart and socially secure. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that about 60 percent of today's global emissions come from infrastructure. This means that what we build now has a decisive impact on the future. In addition, five of the most likely crises we face are considered to relate to climate issues. In the work out of the crisis, therefore, every investment made must serve two purposes, which is to solve the ongoing crisis while new ones can be prevented.

According to the Swedish Public Employment Service's latest statistics, unemployment continues to rise. At the same time, a recent report from the Institute for Public Policy Research shows that in the UK it is possible to create 1.6 million new jobs in the country through investments in sustainable infrastructure and green recovery. In addition, a new report from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe shows that electrification of transport alone can create 15 million jobs worldwide through the manufacture of electric vehicles and investment in public transport.

Renewable energy sources, energy storage, modernization of electricity networks, carbon dioxide storage technology and digital infrastructure are ranked in a research study from the University of Oxford that the most economically effective stimulus measures a government can implement. In addition to environmental and societal benefits, there is also a clear financial incentive with green infrastructure. In fact, sustainable infrastructure solutions are in many cases the most cost-effective alternative. Renewable energy, for example, costs less than energy production based on fossil fuels.

The benefits are many and well documented, and so are the consequences of not investing in infrastructure investments. But despite this, it is not done close enough and what is done is often put in the transport area. Because even though most people are well aware that infrastructure includes everything from road and transport systems, to networks, telecommunications networks, digital communication and information services, electricity networks and energy systems, as well as air, water and sewage networks, infrastructure is most often associated exclusively with roads and transport. When the government announced two years ago that SEK 700 billion between 2018–2029 would be invested in infrastructure, water, energy and digital communication shone with its absence. Similarly, only traffic and transport are mentioned in the chapter on infrastructure in the Restart Commission's book Ideas for a Stronger Sweden.

So let me highlight some of the many problem areas in infrastructure that receive far too little attention in parity with their significance: Today, 16 billion a year is invested in infrastructure for municipal water and sewage supply. According to Svenskt Vatten, that figure should increase by 39 percent and be 22.2 billion per year. There is a great need for renewal, climate adaptation and upgrading of pipe networks and waterworks that must be able to cope with increased capacity and environmental requirements. In addition, Sweden has a large waste of heat where large proportions of the energy required to heat our properties leak out. In addition, we have a shortage of capacity in the electricity grid networks and most regions have problems with increased supply. Urbanization, increased electricity use in industry, digitalisation and electrification in the transport sector place new demands on energy infrastructure. Lack of capacity in the electricity networks has been highlighted as a threat to growth and climate change in several regions in Sweden, and greater efforts and investments are required that can prevent this.

The statistics speak for themselves. Sweden can no longer afford to continue underinvesting in infrastructure. It is time to reform for the future and we have good conditions to change. However, it requires large investments in long-term infrastructure solutions that create more sustainable, efficient and secure societies. Stimulus packages are needed that can increase both immediate and sustainable economic growth. In this way, we can become a pioneer in sustainable community building, which strengthens our international position and long-term competitiveness. By taking advantage of the power of action and adaptation to change that we have seen in the last six months, the pandemic can ultimately bring something good with it.

Jakob Holm, VD Sdiptech AB

1 Business Roundtable (2019) New Study: Reinvesting in U.S. Infrastructure Would Raise Average Household Disposable Income by $1,400 Per Year

2 The World Bank/UN Environment (2018) Financing climate futures

3 World Economic Forum (2020) The global risks report 2020

4 Institute for Public Policy Research (2020) Transforming the economy after covid-19

5 UNECE (2020) Jobs in green and healthy transport Making the green shift

6 University of Oxford Report (2020) Will COVID-19 fiscal recovery packages accelerate or retard progress on climate change?

7 International Energy Organization (2020) Energy efficiency and economic stimulus

8 Regeringens Budget (2018)

9 Dagens Industri (2020)

10 Svenskt Vatten (2017) Investeringsbehov och framtida kostnader för kommunalt vatten och avlopp

11 International Energy Agency (2020),