Ikea to Sell Green Energy. No Solar Panels Required.

It is launching in Sweden in September.

Swedish ikea mega store
Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

Ikea has gotten into the business of selling solar panels before. However, the Swedish furniture giant appears to be upping its game on that front, launching not just in-store solar panel sales in Sweden, but an app that will allow anyone to purchase renewable energy from solar and wind parks. (Folks who buy solar panels from Ikea will be able to sell surplus energy on the same app.) It’s calling the service Strömma (which means "flow" or "currents," in English) and it is launching it first in its home market of Sweden in September. 

“IKEA is a home furnishing company, and we want to make it easier for more people to live a more sustainable life at home. Today we offer smart and energy efficient products and services that contribute to prolonging the life of products, reducing waste, saving water, and eating more healthily, as well as reducing electricity usage," said Bojan Stupar, Sales Manager IKEA Sweden, in a statement. "Providing solar and wind power at a low price to more people feels like the natural next step on our sustainability journey."

According to this press release from Ikea’s parent company Ingka, however, we should expect to see similar services launching elsewhere: 

The electricity from fossil fuels used at home has an impact on both our health and our planet. One simple action we can all take is switching to more renewable energy at home. IKEA offers more sustainable solutions that can be integrated seamlessly into our everyday lives. In addition to STRÖMMA in Sweden, IKEA offers solar panels to customers in 11 markets, with the ambition to enable customers in all our Ingka Group markets to use and generate more renewable energy through our energy services by 2025.

There are a few things worthy of note here, I think. Firstly, the fact that Ikea is focusing on what is essentially a renewable energy-tariff type service is important. While the company’s previous efforts have been about selling the hardware of renewables to place on specific, physical roofs, putting the marketing power of Ikea behind what sometimes feels like a less tangible—yet potentially significant—step toward lower-carbon energy could make a big difference. (I’ve written before that climate efforts sometimes prioritize the showiest or sacrificial actions, whether or not they are the most impactful.) 

Another interesting tidbit, shared in a report from Reuters but not included in the press release, is that the service, which will be purchasing electricity from the Nordic power exchange Nord Pool, is prioritizing energy purchases from power plants five years old or less. Supposedly this is a mechanism to incentivize the addition of new capacity, not just hoovering up of credits from old wind farms that have been around forever. 

Finally, the company is framing the efforts as part of its drive to become “climate positive” by 2030, meaning it aims to reduce or mitigate more carbon than it is responsible for in the first place. “At IKEA, we want to become fully circular and climate positive by 2030, built on renewable energy and resources. We believe the future of energy is renewable and we want to make electricity from sustainable sources more accessible and affordable for all”, said Jan Gardberg, New Retail Business Manager, Ingka Group.

While there is an understandable skepticism in climate circles about net-zero goals as a means to avoid absolute reductions, there is also something to be said for companies and other institutions seeking to not just reduce their own impact but to go beyond that and actually help society, at large, transition to cleaner energy.

After all, whether you’re an individual or a private company, you can only bring your own footprint down to nothing—and even that is prohibitively hard. But if we start measuring our worth in our positive impact, also, then there is much more progress to be had. 

It appears that Ikea is, rather laudably, tracking not just its own operational emissions (Scope 1 and 2), but also the impact that customers have by using its products (Scope 3). And however green it builds its stores, Scope 3 won’t change much until the energy grid does. 

This looks like a worthy effort in trying to make that happen.