Sweden is a leader in the energy transition – IEA

The International Energy Agency (IEA)’s new Energy Policy Review: Sweden 2019 asserts that Sweden is a global leader in building a low-carbon economy, with the lowest share of fossil fuels in its primary energy supply among all IEA member countries, and the second lowest carbon intensive economy.

The country’s success is due to market-based policies that focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy, notably carbon dioxide (CO2) taxation – the highest rate in the world – which has helped drive decarbonisation across several sectors, such as households and heat generation.

According to the review, Sweden’s energy policy is also well-integrated with its climate objectives, which include the long-term goal of zero net emissions by 2045. However, additional action is needed to achieve these results, as the country’s total carbon emissions have been flat since 2013.

The report pays special attention to the transport sector, which accounts for less than a quarter of Sweden’s final energy consumption, but over half of its energy-related CO2 emissions. Sweden has set a target to reduce transport emissions by 70% between 2010 and 2030.

Current policies include a law forcing large filling stations to supply at least one renewable fuel; vehicle taxation to promote low-emission vehicles; and an obligation for suppliers of gasoline and diesel to reduce CO2 emissions through increased biofuel blending. 

However, Sweden is not yet on a trajectory towards its 2030 target, and the IEA recommends that the government closely monitors developments and strengthens policy measures as needed. The electricity system is also critical for Sweden’s energy transition. The IEA says that electricity generation is already ‘practically decarbonised’ due to investments in nuclear power and hydropower, which have afforded the country stability and flexibility since the 1980s. Recently, investment in other renewables such as wind power have increased, but a stronger transmission system is crucial to provide the reliability needed to support increased renewable energy generation.

Sweden has not taken a formal position against the construction of new nuclear plants and most existing nuclear power plants are expected to run for several more decades before being phased out. Nevertheless, there is currently little interest to invest in new reactors, says the report. 

A key factor for maintaining a secure electricity supply is the regional power market. Sweden is well connected with its Nordic and Baltic neighbours and has become a large net exporter of electricity. As the share of wind power continues to increase, supported by green electricity certificates, regional trade will become even more important, adds the IEA.

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