The concepts presented here are explained in the post Energy Accounting.
Primary Energy Supply
The increased share and quantity of nuclear energy between 1979 and 1984 resulted in rapid decarbonisation, at a linear rate of -5.6%/yr over the period.6
About 55% of Sweden’s land area is forested,7 so it’s not surprising that biofuel features in the country’s energy system.
Chart 6 shows that 85% of the biofuel share of Sweden’s energy supply is solid, which is simply vegetation, or biological matter that was created by photosynthesis. While this term does not distinguish between slow growing biofuels such as trees, and fast growing biofuels such as grass that may be carbon-neutral, the IEA reports that solid biomass in Sweden is predominantly from trees as wood-chips, bark and sawdust.10 In 2017, 1.68 billion Euros worth of new biofuel combined heat and power projects were underway.11
As the share and quantity of energy from biofuels continues to increase, Sweden may be carbonising, although reported carbon emissions and carbon intensity reduce. The Swedish government and the Swedish bioenergy trade association, Svebio,12 claim biofuels are carbon-neutral, but the arguments on which this claim is based are not credible, as explained in the post Biofuels.
A measure of carbonisation is the carbon intensity of primary energy supply, which is the mass of carbon dioxide emitted per Joule of supplied energy. This is shown below for Sweden, the world and other countries discussed on this site. While Sweden’s carbon intensity is relatively very low, this calculation depends on reported CO2 emissions, so may not be credible.
Sweden constructed four nuclear power stations, each consisting of multiple reactors. Interestingly, construction times for the first reactors was typically only 6 years, despite their capacities being large at 600MW to 800MW.19 20 In total 12 reactors were commissioned in Sweden, progressively between 1972 and 1985, with a total capacity reaching 11GW.21 This caused rapid and significant lowering of CO2 emissions by about a third in only five years,22 as shown in chart 1(a). No reactors were commissioned after 1985, and after 2020 half are planned to be decommissioned (i.e. 6 of the reactors or 38% of the original 11GW capacity).23 The remaining 62% of capacity is expected to operate until at least 2040. Currently 4 of the 6 reactors to be decommissioned (22% of original capacity)24 have been shutdown permanently.
In 2017 biofuels, mainly biodiesel, accounted for 20% of all road transport fuels in Sweden.25
The rapid growth of biofuels in recent years is mainly attributed to the increased use of hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) renewable diesel fuels, which are produced from various bio-based raw materials.Bioenergy International, 2017 another record year for biofuels in Sweden.25
HVO is based on feedstocks like tall oil, animal fats, and recovered vegetable oils.IEA bioenergy country report, Sweden 2018.10
Because tall oil is obtained from woody biomass in Sweden, and that HVO is also based on animal factory farming, it can’t be assumed that biofuel consumption by Sweden’s transport sector is carbon-neutral.
- Note: (i) BP’s definition of Renewables is energy supplied by Solar, Wind, Geothermal, Solid Biofuels & ‘Other’; (ii) BP does not fully account for biofuels; and (iii) Solid biofuels may not be carbon-neutral.
- Territorial emissions in 1979 = 85MtCO2, 1984 = 57MtCO2 (ref: http://www.globalcarbonatlas.org/en/CO2-emissions), (57 – 85)/(1984 – 1979) = -5.6%/yr of original amount.
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forests_of_Sweden, https://www.sveaskog.se/en/forestry-the-swedish-way/short-facts/brief-facts-1/
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Vy_mot_Stora_Sjöfallet_från_Saltoluokta.jpg, photo credit: STF Saltoluokta Fjällstation
- 8.7/20.3 = 42.9%, https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/TimelineDetailed.pdf
- 615 + 615 + 865 + 900 + 1070 + 1120 + 1450 + 494 + 664 + 984 + 1120 + 1170 = 11,067MW, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_Sweden
- Territorial emissions in 1979 = 85MtCO2), 1984 = 57MtCO2), (57 – 85)/85 = -33% over 5 years
- (615 + 615+865 + 900+ 494+ 664) / 11,067 = 38%
- (615 + 615 + 494 + 664) / 11,067