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Published on January 31st, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan

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Sweden is an Energy Leader: 10 Key Points



Ever wanted to know all about the energy history of Sweden? Probably not, but it is actually a pretty interesting history. Additionally, as you can see in the graph above, Sweden is an energy leader when it comes to CO2 emissions per GDP and CO2 emissions per capita.

Evan Mills of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories recently gave us quite an introduction of Sweden’s energy history, situation today, and plans for the future over on Climate Progress. You can read the full piece, Evolving energy systems: The Swedish story, over there if you want to read the whole thing. If you just want a snapshot, I’ve pulled out some especially interesting points.

  1. Stemming from a public referendum in 1980 triggered by the Three Mile Island disaster in 1979, Sweden decided to phase out and put a ban on new construction of nuclear reactors. This was one of only 6 referendums in Sweden’s history. (Other referendums refer to which side of the road to drive on, prohibition, the country’s pension system, and joining the EU and the Economic and Monetary Union of the EU.) Sweden didn’t meet its deadline of shutting down all of its remaining nuclear reactors by January 1, 2011, but a moratorium on nuclear expansion remains and one would expect that the country will phase out nuclear sooner or later.
  2. Sweden put a cap on CO2 in 1988! CO2 taxes of 105 oere/kgCO2 (US$150/ton!) have brought in about $4 billion/year in revenues since 1991. “This is almost as much as is generated by regular energy taxes.”
  3. National greenhouse gas emissions were about 18% lower in 2009 than 1991, exceeding its Kyoto requirement. “Emissions of SOx are down 70% and NOx down 50%.”
  4. Electricity demand has remained steady since 1991 despite economic growth of 60%. (In other words, energy efficiency is the name of the game in Sweden.)
  5. “Heating energy fuel choices in buildings have been managed very aggressively. Oil’s share has dropped from 25% to about less than 10%.   Electric heating’s share of energy in the household sector has been trimmed by 30%. District heating, fueled primarily with biomass has picked up most of the slack.  Between 1980 and 2010 district heating went from essentially 100% oil to essentially 0% oil.”
  6. 1/3 of Sweden’s energy supply is from renewable sources (if you include hydro). That’s more than any other EU country.
  7. Sweden plans to get 50% of its energy supply from renewable sources by 2020 and plans to have vehicles completely free of fossil fuels by 2030.
  8. “Overall energy intensity (presumably energy per GDP) shall be reduced by 20% between 2008 and 2020.”
  9. In 2020, it plans to emit 40% of the greenhouse gases it emitted in 1990.
  10. It plans to have zero net emissions (i.e. be carbon neutral) by 2050.

Related Stories:

1. Europe’s Largest Wind Farm Gets Approval in Sweden
2. 250,000 Swedes Heat a Building with Their Bodies
3. EU Exceeds Target for 20% Renewable Energy by 2020

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he's the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • Pelle

    Proud to be swedish, now its time other follow our example

    • http://www.zacharyshahan.com Zachary Shahan

      i would be, too

  • Bill Woods

    “Sweden didn’t meet its deadline of shutting down all of its remaining nuclear reactors by January 1, 2011, but a moratorium on nuclear expansion remains and one would expect that the country will phase out nuclear relatively soon.”

    Uh, why would one expect anything of the sort? Sweden dropped that phase-out deadline back in 1997, and formally dropped its phase-out policy last year. Not that there’s a lot of room for expansion, since Sweden gets less than 10% of its electricity from fossil fuels.

    • http://www.zacharyshahan.com Zachary Shahan

      because, as you mention, they don’t get much from fossil fuels at this point and they will likely have the ability and desire to expand their use of renewable resources in the years to come. the old nuclear plants that are running now are known for being unreliable and will not last forever. with no plans to expand their nuclear plants and a moratorium on it, it seems like they will be nuclear-free before too long.

      • Bill Woods

        To me it seems likely that, since they’ve gone to the trouble of repealing the law which barred building new reactors to replace old ones, when the need arises they’ll do exactly that.

    • http://www.zacharyshahan.com Zachary Shahan

      hey Bill, i went to bed thinking about this more. ‘soon’ or even ‘relatively’ soon can mean very different things to different people. & there is no indication as to when the will actually completely phase out nuclear. so, i’ve changed the wording a bit. changed it to ‘sooner or later’ :D

  • http://phibetaiota.net JZ

    I admire the work done to put this together but I would encourage you to post the sources of your information/list of facts. This needs to be a standard for all serious web content to help researchers and any readers who want to take such info seriously.

    • http://www.zacharyshahan.com Zachary Shahan

      JZ: the source is linked in the article. it is the article by Evan Mills of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories. as i said, i was summarizing some key points from that piece, which was referencing a number of sources (some available on the web, some not)..

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