Swedish city's clean energy challenge
by S Nilsson, Agenda 21 Co-ordinator, Vxj, Sweden

Vxj, a city in the south of Sweden, is unusual in that its municipal executive board has unanimously decided to stop using fossil fuels in the municipality.

The city of Vxj.

 

Vxj's heat is supplied primarily from biomass.

Introduction

Vxj is a member of the Climate Alliance, which is a partnership between European local authorities and indigenous rainforest peoples with the goal of protecting the earth's atmosphere. The 800 European member cities work jointly on drawing up and implementing climate protection action plans and co-operate with the indigenous partners to preserve tropical rainforests. The aims of the Alliance have been unanimously accepted by Vxj's executive board:

  • emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels in the whole municipality shall be reduced by 50%, compared with 1993, by the year 2010;
  • the municipality of Vxj shall stop using fossil fuels.

There is wide support for these measures throughout Vxj, and several companies have praised the decision to stop using fossil fuels. Vxj's receipt of an investment grant from the Swedish government for a number of projects to reduce the use of fossil fuels has accelerated the process. Over the last 10 years, Vxj has invested in a change to renewable energy sources and emissions of carbon dioxide are now below the Swedish national average.

Since 1993, all municipal departments and companies have been monitoring their emissions of carbon dioxide from transport and heating. Vxj is the first city in Sweden to undertake such a survey and its example has been followed by other municipalities. Vxj has also contributed to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency's handbook on municipal climate plans.

Overall, emissions of carbon dioxide have diminished; however, carbon dioxide emissions from the transport sector continue to increase.

Heating

Since the start of the 1980s, the utility company Vxj Energy AB (VEAB) has worked towards replacing oil with biofuels and has developed a biofuel-powered CHP plant in Vxj. At present, a large part of the city is served by a district heating network. The new CHP unit began production during 1997 and is estimated to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 20%. The biofuel, in the form of forest waste, is collected from within a radius of about 100 km. This project features in Caddet Renewable Energy Technical Brochure No 104 which will be published soon.

The smaller communities surrounding Vxj have invested in small-scale district heating plants using biofuel. So far, VEAB has built a small-scale plant in the communities of Ingelstad and Rottne, and the utility company Sydkraft Heating Ltd has built a plant in Lammhult. Within the parameters of the investment programme, more communities will be considered during the next three years.

The development of bio-energy is being monitored and pursued by the Centre for Bio-energy which, with the help of the bio-energy industry, has been established at Vxj University. For instance, the Centre is investigating the possibility of making small-scale district heating plants simpler, cheaper and so more competitive. A major potential benefit of using biofuels is the recycling of ash to the forests, and VEAB is investigating various ways of doing this.

Domestic energy use
Vxj's municipal housing company, Vrendshus, has experience in the use of solar panels and, during the next three years, will press for a subsidy for households that install solar panels in order to increase the utilisation of solar energy locally.

During the summer of 1997, Vxj appointed an energy advisor to advise the public on energy issues; he has his own series of radio programmes. Judging by the number of requests for information, advice is in great demand as a result of Sweden's new energy policy which was announced in 1997. The new policy aims to secure long-term energy supply, promote energy efficiency and renewable energy uptake, safeguard health and the environment, and, crucially, to phase out nuclear power.

 

The new CHP plant.

Transport

Although carbon dioxide emissions in the transport sector continue to increase in Vxj, there have been some developments in alternative vehicle fuels. At present, there are several ethanol-driven vehicles ­ both goods vehicles and private cars. At Vxj Lokaltrafik, the local bus company, all buses are fuelled by a mixture containing ethanol or RME (rape methyl ester). In conjunction with the company BSR Sportsman in Vxj and the area's biggest Volvo dealer, the municipality is adapting Volvo cars to be fuelled by ethanol. There are also several electric cars in the city and a local taxi company has changed to RME.

To speed up the development of alternative vehicle fuels, the municipality and a number of companies are co-operating to start production of the diesel substitute DME (di-methyl ester), which can be extracted from biofuels. A preliminary study shows good potential for the development of DME in Vxj. The Swedish government has awarded investment grants for the initial phases of this venture, and for the decomposition of sludge, waste and energy crops for the planned biogas plant.

The European Commission's programme for promoting renewable energy by overcoming non-technical barriers, ALTENER, together with the Ministry of the Environment in Sweden, has given a grant to the city to develop a biogas alternative for transport in the city.

Community planning is an important instrument for slowing down the increase of traffic, and extensive changes to the city centre have been made in order to encourage cyclists and pedestrians. For example, car crossings have replaced pedestrian crossings and the whole of the city centre is a pedestrian precinct. In 1997, Vxj received the Council for Inner City Environments prize for its city traffic environment. During the next few years, with help from the government's investment programme, large investments are planned for the expansion of the cycle path network.

For more information contact the CADDET Swedish National Team in Stockholm.

The CADDET Renewable Energy Newsletter is a quarterly magazine published by the CADDET Centre for Renewable Energy at ETSU, UK.

The articles published in the Newsletter reflect the opinions of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the official view of CADDET.

Enquiries concerning the Newsletter should be addressed to Pauline Toole, Editor, CADDET Centre for Renewable Energy, ETSU, Harwell, Oxfordshire OX11 0RA, United Kingdom. Tel: +44 1235 432968, Fax: +44 1235 433595.