Report Shows Major Potential for Renewables in Sweden

The market for renewable energy in Sweden has expanded as a result of the country’s decision to close a nuclear reactor in 1999, according to a report prepared for the Canadian government.

STOCKHOLM, Sweden – Sweden’s total consumption of electricity is 140 terrawatt-hours (TWh), of which 90 percent is generated at hydroelectric or 12 nuclear power plants. It is one of the few OECD countries with relatively low levels of fossil fuel in total energy supply, but deregulation of the power sector in 1996 has increased competition and prices in the country. The closure of one of its 12 reactors was based on a political decision to advance the emergence of new technologies, according to a market overview prepared for Canadian exporters by the embassy in Stockholm. Biofuels are being supported as a viable replacement of the 5 TWh of lost energy, and the government committed one third of its support to renewable energy and energy efficiency projects during the past three years. For the period until 2002, new energy projects will receive almost 50 percent of the SEK 1.2 billion in total funding, with most of the projects in district heating systems based on biofuel sources. Another government program resulting from the decision on nuclear phase-out in 1997, is contributing with SEK 9 billion over a seven year program until 2004, with most of the research funding to promote energy efficiency and electricity production from renewable energy sources. The potential for wind energy in Sweden exceeds 10 TWh and the National Energy Authority says a reasonable goal is to expand that technology to provide up to 15 percent of total power production. Currently, wind accounts for less than 0.2 percent of total energy supply and funds re being allocated toward programs which support an increased knowledge and a positive development in the Swedish wind power industry. Research in photovoltaic is focused on thin-layer solar cells that will be ready for the market in ten years, concludes the report. Research is also underway in the field of artificial photosynthesis. Further development of hydropower is limited by a parliamentary decision banning the further exploitation of national rivers and other resources, but there are some opportunities for small scale hydro power. The European Union recently directed the natural gas market in Sweden to open to competition, and that fuel currently accounts for only 2 percent of total energy supply. However, natural gas is not considered to be an environmentally friendly alternative in Sweden, explains the report. A EU-Canada agreement on cooperation in science and technology allows Canadian firms to participate on most EU research projects, but the analysis recommends that a Swedish partner be used due to language barriers on bidding documents. Under the Kyoto Protocol, EU nations must reduce their GHG emissions by 8 percent, although Sweden is allowed to increase its emissions by 4 percent over 1990 levels. The country is responsible for 0.3 percent of the world’s carbon emissions and it introduced a carbon tax in the mid-1970s, although biofuels and peat are exempt from the tax.

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