Bjelkeman's travel notes

Travels with the cloud in my pocket.

Sustainable energy — the growth of wind power in Sweden (part 5)


Sweden in 2014 produced about 64 TWh (42%) from large hydro and 62 TWh (41%) from nuclear. The rest came from wind 12 TWh (7.9%) and from other 13 TWh (8.5%), other being mostly biofuel and waste.

The interesting thing here is probably the change over time. In 2005 the distribution was 72 TWh (hydro), 70 TWh (nuclear), 0.9 TWh (wind), 12 TWh (other). With wind growing by 13x and the others staying relatively static, and energy use going down slightly. [1] There is quite a lot of variance per year, as the winter weather changes energy consumption quite significantly.

Electricity export has gone from about zero (2005-2007) to 15 TWh (2012-2014).

How can an individual contribute to this growth?

Possibly the most effective way to support the wind power growth in Sweden is to buy shares in a Swedish wind power cooperative. To show how this works I made a quick and dirty calculation: I bought 28 shares from OX2 windpower coop [2], which entitles me to 28,000 kWh at cost price. Which is what our house/home office uses per year. The price is about €700/share. But I bought shares from the market (people that want to sell their shares), which for some reason are cheaper. I paid about €590/share.

Over the last seven years (I haven’t had my shares that long), the saving on cost of electricity, which is tax free, would have been about €960/year. Which is about 5.7% ROI/year. Better than bank rates but worse than index linked stock market investments (I think).


Note: This was originally a few comments on a post in Hacker News: Why Energy Storage is About to Get Big – and Cheap


Filed under: Climate Change, Sustainable energy, ,

Sustainable energy – Swedish fuel use for electricity production (part 4)

In the last blog I said we had to figure out how much of the electricity produced by the cogeneration (CHP) plants came from renewable energy. Fortunately there is a graph for that too. And it says that in 2013 of 20 TWh of electricity produced 15 TWh came from biofuels. The remaining 5 TWh came from a mix of coal, coal gas, blast furnace gas, natural gas, oil and liquid petroleum gas.

SE fuel for electricity

Figure: Fuel use in Sweden’s electricity production, excluding nuclear fuel 1983-2013, TWh. Figure from Energiläget 2013, part of figure 14.

Considering that in 2013 Sweden produced 12% more electricity than it consumed, then we should then take the 15TWh of renewable production above and deduct the 12% which went on export. Which gives us about 13 TWh of renewable cogeneration.
This means that we now know how much of the Swedish electricity supply in 2013 was renewable:

  • Hydro power 69 TWh
  • Wind power 9 TWh
  • Cogeneration with biofuel 13 TWh

Other electricity production:

  • Nuclear power 55 TWh
  • Cogeneration with other fossil fuels 4 TWh

That comes to about 150TWh in total. There is probably about 2-5TWh of rounding errors in these calculations, through rounding errors and reading from graphs. I could of course go back to the actual numbers (the publish a spreadsheet), but for the purpose of this exercise I think that is overkill.

For the next blog I will have a look at putting together an overview graph of what is renewables in the total energy use today in Sweden and what isn’t.

Links to the previous posts in the series

Filed under: Sustainable energy, , , ,

Sustainable energy – Sweden’s electricity supply (part 3)

To understand how to make the Swedish energy system sustainable, we need to now look at how much is sustainable already and how much needs to be replaced by sustainable sources.

So I am starting with the easy part and look at the electricity supply. Sweden already have a significant component sustainable electricity production, primarily from large hydro, but also from biofuels which power the district heating systems (cogeneration). Smaller sustainable components are wind power and other cogeneration.

SE Electric production

Figure: Sweden’s electricity production per production method and total consumption, 1970-2013, TWh. Figure from Energiläget 2013, part of figure 12.

In this figure we can see that the Swedish electricity consumption is about the same in 2013 as it was around 1987, at about 140 TWh. It peaked in 2000 at about 150 TWh. In 2013 hydro power supplied about 55% of the Swedish consumption and nuclear power supplied about 43%. One should note however that a few years ago they were about equal. It depends on a number of things: how much water is available in the dams and also maintenance cycles for the nuclear power plants, which sometimes need to be shut down for long periods for planned or unplanned maintenance.

In both 2012 and 2013 Sweden produced more electricity than it consumed. In 2013 the overproduction was about 20 TWh (about 12%) more than consumption and this went on export. So it is probably more accurate to say that hydro supplied about 49% and nuclear about 38% of Swedish electricity consumption.

Cogeneration or combined heat and power (CHP) supplief the next biggest part, combined about 20 TWh. However, we can’t really say that this is sustainable, as this graph doesn’t say anything about the energy source used in the CHP plants. We have to refer to another graph to puzzle out that. Wind power provided about 10 TWh in 2013. [1]

So for the sustainable component of this I am going to count:

  • Hydro power: 140 TWh [2]
  • Wind power 10 TWh
  • Some portion of the cogeneration, see later blog for how much

Probably a bit controversially I am going to count nuclear power as a transition system to be phased out later. Nuclear power is a fossil fuel, but it doesn’t produce the huge amounts of climate changing emissions that other fossil fuels produce. So it makes sense in my personal opinion to phase the nuclear power out last, as I wrote about earlier.

For the next blog I’ll investigate the sustainable component of the cogeneration.

Links to the previous posts in the series

[1] My household electricity is 100% wind power, from the wind power cooperative OX2, where I have enough shares to supply 90% of our yearly consumption from our own shares.
[2] Large hydro, like most of the hydro power in Sweden is not really considered sustainable anymore. The dams destroy an awful lot of the ecosystem when they are put in place and in Sweden only old large hydro stations can be considered “sustainable” and if you build new once then they aren’t. However, there are essentially no further rivers to dam up anymore in Sweden anyway, so it is a bit of a non-issue.

Filed under: Sustainable energy, , ,

Sustainable energy – a Swedish energy balance sheet (part 2)

SE Energy balance

So here is my translation of the chart (from the previous blog post) “Total slutlig använding updelat på sectorer, 379 TWh” which in English is “Sweden – Total energy use of energy, divided by sector, 379 TWh (2011)” with added country and date for clarity.[1]

I have changed the colours in the chart, as I didn’t think they were as informative as they could have been and I have made a key for it, which is somewhat subjective.

  • Black: Coal and coke, arguably the worst fossil fuel.
  • Grey: Oil, the second worst fossil fuel.
  • Olive green: Natural gas & coal gas, the least bad fossil fuels in this overview.
  • Yellowish: Biofuel and peat [2], better, but still bad air pollutants. Also the energy economics in some biofuels is questionable.
  • Light green: District heating, better, but is often a mix of biofuels, waste and some fossil fuel.
  • Bright green: Electricity, best, as it can easiest be converted to solar or the other least polluting energy sources. (Even though it is 46% nuclear in 2014.)

So what does this picture tell us?

Clearly transport has the biggest challenge, as oil is so prevalent. The industrial sector in Sweden has moved strongly towards biofuel and peat, but there is still quite a lot of fossil fuel in the mix. The residential and services sector is doing relatively well with only 10% of fossil fuel left in the energy mix.

It is also interesting to see categories which are nearly the same but not quite, like renewable fuel in the transport category, but bio fuel in residential services and biofuel and peat in the industry category. Which sometimes makes it harder to compare. Also district heating could well be run on coal, biofuel or heat pumps, all which have a very different environmental impact. Ideally district heating should be divided instead over the different fuels.

Electricity can also contain fossil fuel use in Sweden. Today the Swedish electricity production is about 46% nuclear, 46% large hydro and the rest a mix of biofuel, waste and fossil fuel (the latter often imported).

Links to the previous posts in the series

[1] Often images gets pulled out of context, through Google Image Search for example, and then it is good to embed a bit more information in the image.

[2] Peat is counted as biofuel in Swedish energy balance calculations, but this is very doubtful as a practice, as it takes hundreds of years to regenerate. So on the time-scales of catastrophic climate change, it should really be classified as a fossil fuel.

Edit: Added link to previous post in the series.

Filed under: Sustainable energy, , ,

Sustainable energy – a Swedish energy balance sheet (part 1)

The book Sustainable energy – without the hot air, by David MacKay, professor of engineering at the University of Cambridge, is probably the most sensible book written about sustainable energy I have come across. I am not the only one that thinks that. After the book was published MacKay was appointed Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Department of Energy and Climate change. Former oil bosses, to directors of Greenpeace have said good things about the book. So, I think we can agree that it is a good book. And what is even better, you can download it for free on his website.

Sustainable Energy - without the hot air Sustainable
Energy – without the hot air

by David MacKay

The book lays out, in easy to understand language, what the challenge with sustainable energy is in general and for the UK in specific. He creates an energy balance sheet, of what is used in non-renewable energy today in the UK and how that could be replaced by renewables. It is an exemplary work, which makes it all the more surprising that we haven’t seen more energy balance sheets made like this for other countries of regions.

So instead of complaining about it. I thought I’ll have a go at this. One blog post at the time. A Swedish energy balance sheet and how to replace it with renewables. The Swedish government department of energy (Energimyndigheten), has quite a lot of good research and data online, so getting the data shouldn’t make it to difficult to get started.

The first part is relatively easy as the to me most useful piece that Energimyndigheten has published, is probably the documents, graphs and spreadsheets called The state of energy 2013 (Energiläget 2013).(Even though a lot of data isn’t actually from 2013, but that is how large scale data collection often works. You get old numbers.) It contains a number of useful figurs and data, which we are going to need.


Figure from Energiläget 2013, part of figure 1

(I try to translate these figures into English properly later. But here is what they say).

The figure says: Total use of energy in Sweden 2011 grouped sector.
Left: Transport (90 TWh) divided over: electricity (3 TWh); oil products (82TWh); natural gas (0.4 TWh); renewables (6 TWh).

Middle: Industry total (144 TWh) dived over: electricity (53 TWh); district heating (4 TWh); oil products (13 TWh); natural gas/town gas (4 TWh); coal and coke (15 TWh); biofuel, peat and waste (53 TWh).

Right: Residences and services total (144 TWh) divided over: electricity (70 TWh); district heating (43 TWh); oil products (13 TWh); natural gas/town gas (2 TWh); biofuel, peat and waste (16 TWh).

Next: Converting this the chart to an English chart.

(Edit: Change what the next blog was going to be. I don’t think I will convert to KWh/person/day, as I am not sure that is that useful after all.)

Filed under: Sustainable energy, , ,

About Bjelkeman

Co-founder/director: Akvo Foundation

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