IEA shows how Sweden can build on its impressive low-carbon successes

Sweden, which already has one of the lowest-carbon economies among OECD countries, has ambitious goals for its energy sector: It seeks to achieve a fossil-fuel-independent vehicle fleet by 2030 and no net greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. The country must now identify the most viable pathways and technologies to meet these objectives at least cost and with minimum risk to energy security, according to a review of Sweden’s energy policies released today by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The report, Energy Policies of IEA Countries – Sweden 2013 Review, commends Sweden for its leadership in energy R&D, notably smart grids and second-generation biofuels, and its commitment to the northern European energy market. Sweden’s renewable electricity certificate system – now in a joint market with Norway - has steadily increased renewable energy supply while limiting the cost to consumers. Today, Sweden’s electricity supply is almost completely carbon-free, and the country has a very low share of fossil fuels in its energy mix thanks to strong energy and CO2 taxation in the sectors not covered by the EU carbon market. Sweden has opted to allow for the replacement of its existing nuclear reactors at the end of their lifetime.

Despite Sweden’s successes, challenges remain. The Swedish economy is energy-intensive due to its broad manufacturing base, resulting in high electricity consumption per capita. Sweden’s energy-related CO2 emissions come from transport (oil) and industry (coal).

“Sweden is already a global leader in providing low-carbon energy to its people. For Sweden to decarbonise further, it must boost energy efficiency in the manufacturing, transport and buildings sectors; expand the share of renewables in the energy mix beyond 2020; and wean its vehicle fleet off of fossil fuels,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven as she presented the review. “Emission reductions in industry will not come forward without clean energy technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS).”

Among the key recommendations, the report calls for:

  • A comprehensive analysis ofthe robustness of different decarbonisation scenarios to 2050, to guide market participants and policy making and to achieve a shared vision on the future electricity mix and technological innovation;
  • An energy-efficiency approach across the whole economy, which includes  active demand-side services, efficient networks, zero-energy buildings and efficient industry and heat sectors;
  • A smarter grid that leads to improved consumer choice through independent data management, net-metering and dynamic pricing. When implemented in a larger common Nordic retail market, this can control the costs of the transition;
  • Regional solutions such as a common Nordic retail market, regionally deployed renewables and joint infrastructure planning of smart grids, electric vehicles or CCS, for example. The IEA encourages Sweden to lead the way towards creating a clean transport sector across the Nordic region.
  • Certainty up to 2030 with respect to the electricity generation mix and the replacement of current nuclear capacity, particularly as Sweden increasingly uses electricity in heating and transport.

Energy Policies of IEA Countries – Sweden 2013 is available for free download.