The Swedish energy system

Foto: Dieter Melhorn/Alamy

Sweden has a high share of renewable energy in the energy mix compared to many other countries (47 per cent in 2009). Hydro power and bio energy are the two main reasons. Bio energy is a big energy source in Sweden and stands for 29 per cent of total final energy consumption. This makes share of bio energy equivalent to that of hydro power and nuclear power together.

Historically, Sweden has been very dependent on the import and use of fossil fuels. But the development of nuclear power and hydro power, starting in the 1970s, together with earlier development of large scale hydro power, and later on bioenergy, has moved Sweden towards being a low carbon economy.

Today, the heating sector in Sweden - to a large extent district heating - is practically fossil fuel free as a result of the increased use of biomass and heat pumps. The same is true for the electricity sector, where hydro power and nuclear stands for the bulk of the production and wind power is increasing rapidly.

The growth in renewable energy and decline in the use of fossil fuels has happened at the same time as the positive development of the Swedish economy. Since 1990, the emissions of greenhouse gases decreased by 9 per cent while GDP increased by 51 per cent.

Long term and sustainable energy policy

In 2009 the Government agreed on a long term and sustainable energy and climate policy for Sweden.

The agreement presents a way out of fossil energy dependence. Measures to promote renewable energy and more efficient energy use will strengthen Sweden's security of energy supply and competitiveness. It will also give Swedish research and entrepreneurship a leading role in the global transition to a low carbon economy.

The Swedish energy policy is based on the same three pillars as the energy cooperation in the EU - ecological sustainability, competitiveness and security of energy supply.

Later in 2009 the Riksdag approved the Government's proposal for a new energy and climate policy (bills 2008/09:162 and 2008/09:163). The bills set ambitious energy-related targets for 2020 and also long-term priorities.

By 2020:

  • 40 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases compared to 1990
  • At least 50 per cent share of renewable energy in the energy mix
  • At least 10 per cent share of renewable energy in the transport sector
  • 20 per cent more efficient use of energy compared to 2008

Long-term priorities and vision beyond 2020:

  • By 2030, Sweden should have a vehicle stock that is independent of fossil fuels
  • Sweden's electricity production today is essentially based on only two sources - hydropower and nuclear power. To reduce vulnerability and increase security of electricity supply, a third pillar that reduces dependence on nuclear power and hydropower should be developed. To achieve this, cogeneration, wind power and other renewable power production must together account for a significant proportion of electricity production
  • A vision that, by 2050, Sweden will have a sustainable and resource-efficient energy supply and no net emissions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere

Policy measures

Swedish energy policy is increasingly affected by decisions at the international level. The targets for 2020 ensure that Sweden will live up to national obligations decided in the EU.

The main policy measures in Sweden are general economic instruments, providing financial incentives aiming for cost-effective solutions and promoting competition between technologies. This includes CO2 and energy taxation, emissions trading and tradable green certificates for renewable electricity. This is complemented with other measures, such as research, development and demonstration efforts and information efforts to influence behaviour.