Just Where Does Sweden Get Off?


In Sweden the trend of the past 20 years has been that renewable energy has increased, while oil use has decreased. So confident is the government of this trend continuing that, as we recently posted, they have plans to go boldy where no US administration has dreamed of: "cold turkey" on oil in twenty years. We thought it would be a good idea to briefly explore the starting point for this vision. Sweden’s energy mix presently consists of over 40 percent oil, nearly as much renewable energy, and 20 percent nuclear power (see below for details). The big difference with the US is coal and natural gas: they use little. That aside: not only do they want to shake off oil, they want to guide others on this path ...for a price. "Sweden can... offer expertise on technology, the environment and financial aspects of all renewable kinds of energy".However, it does not look as if they are prepared to turn all their rivers into reservoirs to get there.

According to this source, starting in the late 1950s, hydropower became increasingly controversial for environmental and aesthetic reasons. In 1969, the Swedish Parliament (Riksdag) thus decided that the four major rivers in northern Sweden with no hydropower stations - the Torne, Kalix, Vindeln and Pite Rivers - would be left that way. Most other waterways are also protected against expansion of hydropower facilities.

These two tables, taken directly from the government web site, show the energy portfolio.

Table 1. Sweden's renewable energy supply Terrawatt Hours(TWh), 2002/1971
Biofuel, peat, wastes 98.2/40
Hydropower 66.7/52
Wind power 0.6/-
Geothermal About 0.3/ -
Solar energy 0.05/-
Total 166/92

Table 2. Sweden's total energy supply (TWh), 2002
Nuclear power**** 69
Crude oil 199
Renewable energy 166
Other sources 50

****Excluding waste heat from nuclear power plants, which totaled 132 TWh.

Also, according to the government summary, "Sweden's supply of renewable energy has nearly doubled in the past three decades. Despite rapid growth, there is sizeable potential for additional renewable energy use. This applies especially to biofuels and wind power, but solar energy also has future potential in various applications".

Recap of Sweden's starting point: No coal. A decades-long trend of reduced oil consumption. A mixed renewables portfolio; and, a nuclear generation capacity comparable to that of the US.

We wonder if through a two decade-long effort, the US could replace coal energy with conservation ("Nega-Watts") and an expanded nuclear plant fleet?