The Energy System of Sweden

Preface

The same preface is used on all posts on this site about energy systems, so you may wish to skip down to Sweden’s Energy Supply.

This site uses data from the IEA1 and BP.2 The latest year of BP’s data is 2018, whereas the IEA’s is 2017. Despite this, some charts here use IEA data because BP doesn’t fully account for solid biofuels, and in some instances doesn’t provide adequate detail.

A conventional representation of an energy system is shown below.

Figure 1. Representation of an energy system.

The term ‘total primary energy supply’ (TPES) describes, or accounts for, energy in its primary form prior to any conversions such as coal to electricity, whereas energy in forms purchased and used by the consumer, such as electricity, is accounted for separately as ‘total final consumption’ (TFC). For simplicity this site uses the terms ‘energy supply’ and ‘energy consumption’ respectively. Information about electricity is shown at the bottom of this page.

Energy supplied by renewables (shown as non-combustibles in the above diagram) cannot be directly compared with energy supplied by fossil fuels because renewables have natural forms of primary energy (i.e. sun, wind etc). For example, the quantity of kinetic energy in wind can’t be directly measured and compared to the quantity of coal or other combustible fuels. To overcome this, for each renewable energy source, an equivalent quantity of primary energy is determined. This allows the primary energy supplied by both combustible and non-combustible (i.e. renewable) energy sources to be compared. This is conventionally done by calculating for each quantity of renewable electricity, the quantity of primary energy that would be required to be input to a thermal (fossil fuelled) power station of average efficiency, in order to output an equivalent amount of electricity. This method therefore describes the quantity of fossil fuels displaced by renewables, and is explained further in the post About Energy Systems.

Sweden’s Energy Supply

Reactor number 3 at Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant.3

Sweden’s energy supply is shown below in chart 1, and in expanded form in chart 2.

Chart 1. Sweden’s energy supply, 1990 to 2018. Data: BP(2019).2 Shaded bars indicate years 2017 and 2018. 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.4
Chart 2. Sweden’s energy supply, 1990 to 2018, expanded. Data: BP(2019).2 Shaded bars indicate years 2017 and 2018. 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.4

Charts 3 and 4 show Sweden’s energy supply by share, demonstrating that Renewables in chart 2 above is almost all wind energy.

Chart 3. Sweden’s’s energy supply by share in 2017. Data: IEA.1
Chart 4. Sweden’s energy supply by share. Data: IEA.1

Numerical values are shown below.

Table 1. Sweden’s energy supply. Data: IEA.1 Dashes indicate negligible or zero values.

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.5

About 55% of Sweden’s land area is forested,6 so it’s not surprising that biofuel features in the country’s energy system.

A nice autumn view towards Stora Sjöfallet National Park.7 8

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,9 claim biofuels are carbon-neutral, but the arguments on which this claim is based are not credible, as explained in the post Biofuels. The chart below 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 solid biomass in Sweden is predominantly from trees as wood-chips, bark and sawdust.10 Unfortunately in 2017, 1.68 billion Euros worth of new biofuel combined heat and power projects were underway.11

Chart 5. Energy production by biofuels and waste in Sweden in 2017. A relatively negligible amount of liquid biofuels is not shown. Data: IEA.1
Hedensbyverket biofuel energy plant (combined heat power) in Skellefteå, Sweden.12

Sweden’s annual reported fossil fuel CO2 emissions are shown below from 1959 to 2017.

Chart 5.(a) Sweden’s annual fossil fuel CO2 emissions. Data: BP(2019).2 (b) Sweden’s fossil fuel CO2 emissions by source from 1965 to 2018. Data: Global Carbon Project.13

A measure of carbonisation is the carbon intensity of the energy supply, which is the mass of carbon dioxide emitted per Joule of energy supplied. 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 described above, so may not be credible.

Sweden’s Energy Consumption

X2 Swedish high speed tilting train.14 In Sweden many trains run at 200km/h.15 Realising that it couldn’t build its rail lines as straight as the high-speed lines in the likes of Japan and France, the country’s state-controlled infrastructure operator set about developing a high-speed network designed around tilting train technology in the mid-1980s. Each X2 formation consists of one 4400hp car, powered at 15kV AC. Each unit can be made up of up to 16 intermediate vehicles with a maximum capacity of 1,600 passengers, but a typical train will only have five intermediate trailers.16

As shown in figure 1 above, energy consumption describes energy after conversions. For example, some energy supplied by coal is converted and consumed as electricity, and the rest is instead combusted and consumed in industrial applications (e.g. steel manufacture) and domestic applications (e.g. cooking).

Chart 7. Sweden’s energy consumption by share in 2017, showing electricity generation. Data: IEA.1 The dashed segment in the left hand most pie chart represents the equivalent share of electricity if the quantity produced in 2017 was produced within a 100% wind/water/solar (WWS) energy system, serving to demonstrate the remaining change needed for full electrification. The 35.1% in 2017 equates to 81.8% under WWS, as shown. The share of electricity becomes greater because total energy consumption of a 100% WWS system reduces to 42.9% of business-as-usual.17 18 This is due to: (a) using heat pumps for building heat; (b) using electricity for industrial heat; (c) using battery and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles; (d) eliminating mining, transportation and processing of fuels, and (e) efficiency improvements. Also note: (i) Non-energy use of energy sources excluded (e.g. oil used for lubrication); (ii) Transport & Distribution Losses include gas distribution, electricity transmission, and coal transport, and (iii) Examples of Electricity Industry Own-Use include energy consumed in coal mines, own consumption in power plants and energy used for oil and gas extraction.19

In 2017, Sweden consumed 35.1% of its energy in the form of electricity, 69% greater than the world average of 20.8%.20 More than all of Sweden’s total electricity requirement for 2017 was produced by roughly equal shares of 45% nuclear and hydro energy, 12% wind energy and 7% biofuels. Combined these total 109%, partly because while Sweden imported 8% of its electricity during the year, 21% was exported.

Sweden’s topography and climate has facilitated hydro energy, with 47 hydroelectric power stations with capacities greater than 100MW,21 and 2,057 hydro electric power stations in total.22

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.23 24 In total 12 reactors were commissioned in Sweden, progressively between 1972 and 1985, with a total capacity reaching 11GW.25 This caused rapid and significant lowering of CO2 emissions by about a third in only five years,26 as shown in chart 5(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).27 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)28 have been shutdown permanently.

Chart 8 shows electricity generation over time using data from the IEA up to year 2017. BP’s energy statistics doesn’t provide any information specifically about Sweden, so the information from BP shown about electricity this in other posts on this site is unavailable.

Chart 8. Electricity generation in Sweden. Data: IEA.1

The following two charts below show Sweden’s energy consumption over time by energy source and by economic sector.

Chart 9. Sweden’s energy consumption by: (a) Energy source; (b) Economic sector. Data: IEA.1

The following charts show energy consumption in each economic sector. 

Chart 10. Energy consumption in economic sectors. Note: The transport sector includes rail and aviation. Gridlines removed for clarity. Data: IEA.1

Oil in the industrial sector declined as industrial output in China increased, and while oil dominates the transport sector, consumption of liquid biofuels has become significant.

In 2017 biofuels, mainly biodiesel, accounted for 20% of all road transport fuels in Sweden.29

Energy consumption of the transport sector in Sweden, 2017, showing further detail for that in chart 10 above.29

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.29

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.

Discussion

While Sweden has undertaken significant efforts to decarbonise its energy supply using nuclear energy, the quantity and share of energy from biofuels has grown significantly, seemingly without honest and rigorous regard to the possible consequential carbon emissions. The Chatham House report, Woody Biomass for Power and Heat: Impacts on the Global Climate,30 makes detailed recommendations that Sweden’s government could utilise to produce honest and transparent accountancy of territorial carbon emissions, and then perhaps factual decarbonisation.

  1. https://www.iea.org/statistics/()()()()()()()()()
  2. https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/statistical-review-of-world-energy.html()()()()
  3. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Forsmark3.jpg, photo credit: robin-root (CC BY-SA 2.0) ()
  4. https://www.worldenergydata.org/biofuels/()()
  5. 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.()
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forests_of_Sweden, https://www.sveaskog.se/en/forestry-the-swedish-way/short-facts/brief-facts-1/()
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stora_Sjöfallet_National_Park()
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Vy_mot_Stora_Sjöfallet_från_Saltoluokta.jpg, photo credit: STF Saltoluokta Fjällstation()
  9. https://www.svebio.se/en/()
  10. https://www.ieabioenergy.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/IEA-Bioenergy-Countries-Report-Update-2018-Bioenergy-policies-and-status-of-implementation.pdf()()
  11. https://bioenergyinternational.com/heat-power/eur-1-68-billion-worth-biomass-power-projects-sweden()
  12. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:FIL2938.JPG, photo credit: Mattias Hedström (CC BY-SA 2.5) ()
  13. http://folk.uio.no/roberan/GCB2018.shtml()
  14. Stefan Nilsson/SJ [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SJ_X2_in_snow_Jonsered_2007-01.jpg()
  15. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-speed_rail_in_Sweden()
  16. https://www.railway-technology.com/projects/sweden/()
  17. https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/TimelineDetailed.pdf()
  18. https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/CombiningRenew/WorldGridIntegration.pdf()
  19. https://www.iea.org/statistics/resources/balancedefinitions/()
  20. https://www.worldenergydata.org/world/()
  21. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_hydroelectric_power_stations_in_Sweden()
  22. https://www.worldenergy.org/data/resources/country/sweden/hydropower/()
  23. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barsebäck_Nuclear_Power_Plant()
  24. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ringhals_Nuclear_Power_Plant()
  25. 615 + 615 + 865 + 900 + 1070 + 1120 + 1450 + 494 + 664 + 984 + 1120 + 1170 = 11,067MW, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_Sweden()
  26. Territorial emissions in 1979 = 85MtCO2), 1984 = 57MtCO2), (57 – 85)/85 = -33% over 5 years()
  27. (615 + 615+865 + 900+ 494+ 664) / 11,067 = 38%()
  28. (615 + 615 + 494 + 664) / 11,067()
  29. https://bioenergyinternational.com/markets-finance/2017-another-record-year-biofuels-sweden()()()
  30. https://www.chathamhouse.org/publication/woody-biomass-power-and-heat-impacts-global-climate()