About two percent of all the electricity produced in Sweden comes from wind power. Photo: Sven Rosenhall/NordicPhotos
Ever since the oil crisis in the early 1970s, Sweden has invested heavily in the search for alternative energy sources. Its phase-out of oil has proceeded smoothly. In 1970, oil accounted for over 75 percent of Swedish energy supply; by 2009, the figure was just 32 percent, chiefly due to the declining use of residential heating oil.
Sweden outlined its present energy policy in 1997. The government wanted to promote “efficient and sustainable energy use and a cost-effective energy supply” that would “facilitate the transition to an ecologically sustainable society.”
The Swedish National Energy Administration was set up for this and to monitor developments.
Large amount of renewable energy
Today, 45 percent of Sweden’s energy supply—electricity, district heating and fuel—comes from renewable energy, which is more than in most EU countries. The reason for this is the large share of hydropower and biofuels in the energy system. Since early 2009, there has been an EU directive to promote the development of renewable energy sources. Based on the directive, Sweden has set a target to increase its share of renewable energy to 50 percent by 2020.
High power consumption — low emissions
Sweden consumes a substantial amount of electricity per capita (16,000 kWh per person per year). Only a few countries have higher electricity consumption. Yet Swedish carbon emissions are low compared to other countries. The average Swede releases 5.3 tons of carbon dioxide per year into the atmosphere, compared with the EU average of 8.1 tons and the US average of 19.0 tons.
The reason for this low emission rate is that about 85 percent of electricity in Sweden comes from nuclear power and hydroelectric power, neither of which generates carbon emissions.
Biofuels provide heat and power
Cogeneration, or combined heat and power (CHP), plants account for a further 12 percent of the electricity output in Sweden, and these are mainly powered by biofuels. The remaining portion of electricity, about two percent, comes from wind power.
Sweden’s electricity production, 2009 (TWh).
In 2003, green electricity certificates were introduced in Sweden to encourage the use of renewable energy. To be certified green, the electricity has to come from wind power, wave power, solar energy, geothermal energy, biofuels or small hydroelectric plants. Power consumers have to buy a certain number of green certificates—via their electricity bills—while power producers receive a certificate for every megawatt-hour (MWh) of renew-able electricity they generate. The goal is to boost renewable electricity by 25 TWh from 2002 to 2020. Between 2002 and 2009, renewable electricity increased by 8.2 TWh under the scope of the electricity certificate system, with biofuels representing about 67 percent of this and wind power 24 percent.
Solarcells are an effective, but still expensive, source of renewable energy. Photo: Mauro Rongione/Johnér
Fast growing energy source
Wind power has been the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in recent years. Installed capacity multiplied over the past decade. However, the rising share of wind power with its fluctuating production places considerable demands on the electricity supply grid, which must be strengthened and expanded.
Sweden puts considerable effort into developing renew-able, alternative fuels. Ethanol research began in the 1980s, and Sweden is among the world leaders.
Most of the ethanol sold today is produced from grain, with varying consequences for the climate. From a life cycle viewpoint—where climate impact is measured along the whole chain from production to use—ethanol extracted from sugarcane is favored. Swedish researchers focus on the production of ethanol from cellulose, referred to as second-generation biofuels. In most cases, this is a more effective method than grain-based production. Moreover, this type of ethanol does not affect food crops. Other biofuels of interest are different kinds of biogas that can be extracted from manure and waste, among other materials.
The European Union targets call for 10 percent of all transport fuel to be derived from renewable energy sources by 2020. By 2009, Sweden had reached 5.3 percent, in part due to increased use of ethanol. To speed up developments, a “pump law” was introduced in 2006 under which all gas stations selling more than 3,000 cubic meters (about 100,000 cubic feet) of gas or diesel per year are required to supply at least one kind of renewable fuel.
Hybrid cars, i.e. vehicles that use electrical (battery) power and fuel, are on the rise. The combination of electricity and biofuels seems promising. The next step is plug-in hybrids—cars with larger batteries charged from the power grid. In spring 2008, Volvo and Vattenfall, Sweden’s largest power company, embarked on an ambitious project to produce the next generation of plug-in hybrids. The companies aim to begin mass production in 2012.
Photo: Ulf Huett Nilsson/ Johnér
Conserving energy in industry
In 2005, Sweden introduced a special program designed to boost energy efficiency in industry. Under this program, the 180 or so power-intensive industries taking part are granted tax relief in exchange for drawing up energy plans and taking steps to reduce energy use. To date, the program has resulted in energy savings of about 1.4 TWh per year at a value of about SEK 500 million.
In the construction sector, the government wants a 20 percent reduction in energy use in building stock by the year 2020 (compared with 1995) and a 50 percent reduction per heated unit area by 2050. This has made energy-efficient housing a more interesting proposition. Passive houses are one example. These are built without conventional heating systems and are kept warm by the heat given off by their occupants. Extra thick insulation and intelligent ventilation systems ensure low energy use.
Since January 1, 2008, a new law on energy declarations has been in force in Sweden. Based on an EU directive and applying to all owners of private homes, apartment blocks and other premises, its aim is to promote more efficient energy use.
The government is investing heavily in information and advice for households on how to save energy. Each municipality—there are 290 in Sweden—has an energy adviser people can turn to for advice and assistance. These include replacing windows, using low-energy light bulbs, switching to different heating systems and the like.
Sweden’s total energy consumption (TWh).
Stockholm-Arlanda is heated from below ground
Beneath Stockholm-Arlanda Airport, just outside the Swedish capital, is the world’s largest energy storage unit. The underground water reserve or “aquifer”—almost two kilometers (over a mile) long—cools and heats half a million square meters (over five million square feet) of terminal space.
Cold water is pumped out of the aquifer in the summer to be used in the airport’s district cooling network. Warmed-up water then flows back and is pumped underground and stored until winter, when it is needed to melt the snow in aircraft parking stands and pre-warm the ventilation air in buildings. The aquifer has a volume of over two million cubic meters (about 70 million cubic feet), with water constituting 30 percent of this.
End to energy-wasting products
It started with light bulbs. Now more and more products that waste energy are being phased out through the EU’s “renewable energy directive.”
By setting minimum standards for various technical products, there is great potential to reduce energy consumption across Europe—and thus climate-changing emissions. Among the products that have so far been subject to stricter energy requirements—along with light bulbs—are televisions, digital boxes, circulation pumps and electric motors.
Photo: Sami Sarkis/Matton
The EU’s Ecodesign Directive applies to new sales and covers the entire EU. Overall, the minimum requirements on product groups entail major reductions in energy consumption. The ecodesign requirements, together with the energy labeling of products, are expected to save some 1,110 TWh within the EU by 2020 (as a comparison, Sweden’s total annual energy consumption is about 570 TWh).
SEK 1 (Swedish krona) = USD 0.15 or EUR 0.11 (February 2011)
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