IEA commends Sweden for its sound and sustainable energy policy, but urges clarification on the role of nuclear power
(Stockholm) — 28 May 2008
“Sweden has continued to make impressive progress in its energy policy over the past few years,” Nobuo Tanaka, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), said today in Stockholm at the launch of Energy Policies of IEA Countries – Sweden 2008 Review.
“Sweden is one of the leading IEA countries in the use of renewable energy and has a long tradition of ambitious and successful policies to improve energy efficiency. Compared to the other IEA countries, Sweden’s CO2 emissions per capita and per unit of GDP are low, partly owing to efficient and low-carbon space heating, and virtually carbon-free electricity generation. The country also remains a forerunner in electricity market liberalisation,” Mr. Tanaka said. Still, there is room for improvement. “Clarifying the role of nuclear power and further reducing CO2 emissions remain key challenges,” he added.
Clarify the role of nuclear power in energy supply
Nuclear power provides almost half of the electricity in Sweden, at a low cost and without CO2 emissions. The outlook for nuclear power, however, remains uncertain. “It is hard to see how phasing out nuclear power could serve Sweden’s broader energy and climate policy goals. The current situation also creates uncertainty for investors in all forms of electricity generation in the whole Nordic market area,” stressed Mr. Tanaka. “The government should intensify its efforts to clarify the role of nuclear power in the Swedish energy mix, paying due consideration to electricity prices, climate change mitigation and security of electricity supply.”
Continue ambitious policies to reduce CO2 emissions, focus on transport
Sweden is on track to meeting its target for reducing greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol. “Kyoto, however, is just the first step and must be followed by a more ambitious international agreement. The real challenge is yet to come and lies in the post-Kyoto period," observed Mr. Tanaka.
Sweden has the lowest-carbon energy supply within the IEA, but more can still be done in all sectors. As transport is the largest polluter and its CO2 emissions are increasing, it is the logical focus for further efforts. “The government should continue its policies to reduce oil use in transport. It should encourage more efficient vehicles and promote alternatives to oil-based road transport, including transport of freight,” Mr. Tanaka urged.
Ensure renewable energy is supplied from sustainable sources
Sweden is one of the IEA countries with a high proportion of renewable energy in its energy mix, and is sufficiently well endowed to further increase domestic supply. It is crucial that additional targets for energy from biomass are based on a full assessment of the optimum use of this resource. Biomass from forests and fields can be used for several purposes, not only for energy, and very high targets for bioenergy could result in resource competition, disrupt supply for other products, and adversely affect GDP and employment.
Also, large-scale use of renewable energy in the transport sector should be based on life-cycle analysis of its costs and benefits. Biofuels for transport may not provide the same climate and efficiency benefits that Sweden is already gaining in using biomass in the heat and power sectors. “Only where fuel supplies can be reliably and sustainably produced from biomass, car users should be encouraged to switch to biofuel blends,” Mr. Tanaka concluded.