Bjelkeman's travel notes

Travels with the cloud in my pocket.

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.


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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.)

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Co-founder/director: Akvo Foundation

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