Renewable Energy in the Stockholm Region

Environment, climate and energy | 10-02-2015

The following text is an extract from the Stockholm Region´s opinion regarding a new Renewable Energy Directive for the period after 2020 (REDII) dated February 2016.

The Stockholm Region stresses that the most important additional EU measures to ensure that the EU and its Member States reach the common binding target of at least 27% renewable energy 2030 are the introduction of a carbon tax in all Member States, to encourage a higher share of renewable fuels, including as a complement to the activities covered by the ETS. Other issues of importance to the Stockholm Region are continued tax exemptions for biogas used as a fuel, or finding new solutions focussing on biogas as a renewable source.

Support for research into energy efficiency, and the right to self-production of renewable electricity are also essential to achieving the greatest possible climate impact at the lowest possible price. Consideration should be given both to the consumers and to the local actors providing the electricity, but also to public actors, who need to build energy efficiently and contribute to as high a percentage of renewable energy in the public sector as possible.

Renewable heating and cooling in the EU

The Stockholm Region supports a carbon tax to be introduced on EU level, encouraging an increased use of renewable fuels.

Limited deployment of district heating produced in combined heat and power plants (CHP) is currently a barrier. Most of the district heating is produced with imported natural gas, followed by coal and renewable fuels. Apart from the ETS, there is a lack of financial instruments encouraging a higher share of renewable fuels.

Well-separated food waste is a resource that is not being utilised as fuel for combined heat and power in most Member States. Activities generating greater amounts of waste heat should, where possible, be established adjacent to existing or planned infrastructure for district heating supply. Instruments should be introduced for a better disposal of separated waste (based on EU waste hierarchy) as a fuel resource.

Little use is being made of free cooling from e.g. cold seawater. Seawater can also be used for heat production using heat pumps.

The owners of district heating distribution could receive waste heat from other actors, such as data centres and heat from wastewater systems and larger solar thermal systems, but there is a lack of instruments to make this work. Large amounts of waste heat are generated from the cooling of data centres. Larger data centres and other activities, requiring cold temperatures, should be located close to existing infrastructure for district heating, to enable the recovery of waste heat. Incentives for knowledge transfer should be introduced from Member States with efficient systems for waste incineration, combined heat and power and district cooling production, as well as waste heat recovery, to Member States lacking this knowledge.

It is important to have a holistic approach. Today, there is an imbalance between what an individual consumer considers positive at the individual level and what is positive for an entire city. District heating is currently a very effective method of energy supply for cities in Sweden, and research into developing new renewable energy, using district heating systems is important. At the same time, the balance needs to be met, so that consumers wishing to, can use their own renewable energy. It is also important to look at the bigger picture and the system as a whole, rather than focusing too much on the individual property. This may need to be better communicated to the citizens/small consumers.

Renewable energy in the transport sector

A lack of long-term tax reduction for biofuels is the most important barrier to the development of renewable fuels and the use of renewable electricity in transport.

The Stockholm Region sees the need for keeping the tax reduction on biofuels, to maintain the environmental and climate control in the transport sector, and strengthen Swedish climate policy. The tax exemption of biofuels increases the possibility of achieving the target of a fossil-fuel independent transport sector by 2030. Such a tax reduction is also in line with the Lisbon Treaty articles on climate and energy policy, according to which the polluter pays for damage done. An amendment to the EU regulation is necessary; allowing full use of the polluter pays principle, also in the transport sector.

Production of biofuels

The Stockholm Region sees it as a serious problem that cereal grains from surplus farmland cannot be used for ethanol beyond the ceiling of 7%, despite the fact that there are about 40 million hectares of unused farmland in the EU, and that the abandonment of cereal agriculture is the main threat to biodiversity in the EU. Half of the EU’s endangered species depend on the small-scale farms that are disappearing in the aftermath of rationalisation.

Similar discussions have now started spreading also to solid fuel, and there are several initiatives advocating that almost all biofuel use should be stopped. This would jeopardise district heating production in the region. In several places in southern Europe, forestry differs significantly from Swedish forestry in terms of sustainability, environmental concerns and safeguarding protected forests. The fact that Swedish forestry is managed in a better way is not very well known among the European environmental movements, which sometimes use a one-size-fits-all approach to European forestry, advocating reduced biofuel use from, for example, the forest.


Electricity is considered by many to be a possible future substitute for fossil fuels. A lot of research is underway in the area, especially around battery capacity, to increase the range. The transition to battery charged vehicles will probably not gain momentum by itself. It is primarily through cooperation and coordination, that Sweden and other Member States can become world leaders in battery charged vehicles. It is the joint responsibility of all parties. The EU is already working on issues relating to standards for charging, etc. and requirements for public procurement and networks of charging infrastructure.

The Stockholm Region would also like to point out, that fuel cell vehicles and infrastructure development of hydrogen is an important part of the transition to a fossil fuel-free transport system. A great deal of development along these lines is already being carried out across Europe, and also the EU has included it on the agenda.

Good examples from the Stockholm Region´s work with renewable energy:

  • The energy company in Stockholm has created a business model (Open district heating) for receiving waste heat. All companies and organisations that have surplus heat and are located near the company’s district heating or cooling network, can sell energy to the company at market price. The district heating is produced mainly as combined heat and power and supplies about 80% of the heat demand. Today renewable fuels make up about 80% of the fuel mix. A new bio-combined heat and power plant will become operational in early 2016. The share of biofuels will then amount to about 90%. The energy company has decided that by 2030, produce 100% of the district heating with renewable and recycled energy.
  • Another interesting example is the cooperation on biogas that Biogas East has conducted, where the collection of food waste and other plant crops is used for the production of biogas, which then is used as fuel for e.g. buses. The targets set up by Västerås have allowed the city to work on the issue, which in turn has contributed to reduced emissions. It is therefore important to set targets and follow them up with activities to achieve the targets. Sustainable solutions must be sought.
  • Interesting solutions with heat production from the Baltic Sea can be found in Visby on Gotland. Parts of Campus Gotland and the Almedalen Library, the Congress Hall Wisby Strand and part of Visby Hospital is heated and cooled using seawater plants. The energy content of the seawater is used for heating and in summer, the seawater is used to cool the buildings. One of seawater plants (a total of 2) is supplied with electricity from solar cells for the operation of the cooling pumps, which makes the operation of the plant in the cooling mode completely renewable.
  • The Stockholm region would also like to inform the Commission about Block 6, which is the newest part of the combined heat and power plant in Västerås. The boiler can burn waste and biofuel and works well as a temporary solution to reduce the current waste mountain in Europe.

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