Sweden Raises The Renewable Energy Bar

Sweden has the reputation among the world's most regulated industries as being annoying. The Swedish government has for decades argued for international policies that discourage the use of toxic and bioaccumulative materials, which fed into EU-wide interest in the "precautionary principle". And, as the picture symbolizes, the Nobel prize has been given for "green chemistry". Even Sweden's well known industries, Volvo for instance, seem to share the forward-looking culture. Years ago Volvo produced internal "grey lists" of substances that should not be used during manufacture and eventually shared the same expectation with their suppliers. Now this is a worldwide trend. By the early 1990's it had become obvious that you could see a major environmental managment trend coming by watching what happens after Sweden. As soon as a US broadcaster says "In Sweden today..." you know it's coming to California,... and so on. So, it was with great interest that we read this recent headline: "Sweden Plans on Being the First Country in the World to Be Free From Oil in 2020". Need we say more? Of course."Minister for Sustainable Development Mona Sahlin has declared that Sweden is going to become the first country in the world to break the dependence on fossil energy. Sweden will stop using oil by 2020 and eventually the energy supply of the country will be based on renewable energy only. The goal is to gradually rid the country of gasoline-run cars and oil-heated homes"

Characteristically, they have actually thought this out and have some mechanisms in mind. Here's the list so far proposed or partially implemented.

*Large-scale investments in renewable energy and in research.

*Expansion of district heating initiatives (co-gen and use of waste industrial and utility heat for domestic needs) as was done famously in Denmark, and emulated in the US in a few rare instances.

*Not subjecting fuel that is free of carbon dioxide to the energy tax or the carbon dioxide emission tax.

*Exempting efficient vehicles from the congestion tax that will be introduced in Stockholm in January.

*Taxes on energy and on carbon dioxide emissions were raised, while other taxes, such as those on payroll were decreased by an equivalent amount.

*Municipalities receive grants to conduct long-term climate research and make investments in environment-friendly technology.

*There are interim objectives for each target, regional and local objectives to match, and an Environmental Objectives Council to monitor progress towards the goals.

*Progress is charted through 70 national indicators, which track results and verify whether the country is heading in the right direction.