With close co-operation between companies, academia, state and its citizens, Sweden has many clean tech lessons for the UAE
By Shalini Seth
When you think of energy in Sweden, the word conjures up images of efficient ‘passive’ houses, energy advisors, defined consumption standards in el
ectronic equipment, hybrid vehicles and empowered customers who can purchase green certificates.
“It has today become a ‘mindset’ where already school children are educated in this field,” says Geetali Chhatwal Jonsson, Head of Direct Markets, Invest Sweden, a government agency that works to attract foreign direct investments into Sweden.
Since the seventies’ oil crisis, Sweden has invested in alternative energy sources, phasing out oil smoothly. In 1970, oil accounted for more than 75 per cent of Swedish energy supply; by 2009, the figure was just 32 per cent, chiefly due to the declining use of residential heating oil. Today, it has “cut in half” its consumption of fossil fuels and oil since the 1970s, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said last month.
Just over 45 per cent of Sweden’s energy supply — electricity, district heating and fuel — comes from renewable energy, relying on hydropower and biofuels. Cogeneration, or combined heat and power (CHP), plants account for a further 12 per cent of the electricity output in Sweden. The remaining portion of electricity, about 2 per cent, comes from wind power.
Playing its part
All this has been possible due to a focused effort, from legislation and incentives to education, international participation and industrial effort. “The development of the process industry within pulp and paper and within metallurgy has played an important role. Legislation has been made constantly stricter and taxes have been introduced for pollution. Several companies that are specialised in a small part of the value chain continuously together provide improved solutions,” Chhatwal Jonsson says.
The green certificate initiative, for instance, encourages the use of renewable energy. To be certified green, the electricity has to come from wind power, wave power, solar energy, geothermal energy, biofuels or small hydroelectric plants. Power consumers have to buy a certain number of green certificates — via their electricity bills — while power producers receive a certificate for every megawatt-hour (MWh) of renewable electricity they generate.
Building on strengths
Clean technology is another of Sweden’s strengths. It includes recycling, renewable energy (wind power, solar power, biomass, hydropower, biofuels), information technology, green transportation, electric motors, green chemistry, lighting, and many other appliances that are now more energy efficient.
The UAE, with developments such as the Masdar project, is uniquely poised to partner with Sweden. Like Sweden, the government is keen to make sustainability a mindset rather than an afterthought with a strategy that includes initiatives, incentives and legislation.
Hoping to expand into the UAE are companies such as Airwatergreen, which has developed a technology called Controlled Moisture Capture and Release (CMCR), that condenses water vapour from air without the help of electricity, only heat. With the abundance of sun in the region, the possibilities are immense. “Since the needs are different in the Gulf region than in northern Europe, so are the applications,” says Jonas Wamstad, its CEO.
While the company is not yet active in the region, with focused efforts from both governments it should not be long before it finds takers here as well. “In the Gulf Region, CMCR will be utilised to turn something that is abundant and less expensive — air and sun — into something that is greatly desired and very expensive — water! We will be able to do this at no energy expense, and there will be no need to build a new power plant just to produce more water.
CMCR runs on heat and is therefore able to utilise solar energy seven times more effectively than electric peers, simply because solar heat panels have a seven-fold better efficiency than photovoltaic solar cells,” Wamstad says.
Companies such as Airwatergreen will be at the forefront once the green drive takes root across the board. Already, various authorities are making sure that development moves in the right direction in the country. In the hotel sector, for instance, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority has created a web-based application where hotels can see how they are performing against their targets and compare against other hotels.
Wamstad is hopeful of reaching out to clients across sectors, “The client base for this business case consists of water investors or municipalities that want to own one of these facilities (or new ‘water wells’) that will produce clean water.
The second case is to install water producing facilities on the roof of buildings in urban city centres. The installation will produce potable water and dry air, delivered into the building at no energy expense. Clients here will be hotel, commercial and residential buildings,” he says.
But no effort is complete without participation of residents. In Sweden, each of the 290 municipalities has an energy advisor people can turn to for assistance for topics such as replacing windows, using low-energy light bulbs and switching to different heating systems.
Chhatwal Jonsson says the Middle East has good possibilities for a good development. “To achieve similar results in the region will require education and incentives. There are many good initiatives here and there are good possibilities for good development. Probably, taxes or fees have to be adapted before this takes place.”
Eventually, Sweden hopes to lead the world towards a “global green economy”, as Reinfeldt told Brazilian companies last month. “The challenge of attaining a green economy is huge, but there is no alternative,” he said, proposing the establishment of a “price” on pollution and consumption of natural resources — in order to reduce emissions.
SWEDEN’S ENERGY FACTS
Since the oil crisis in the early 1970s, Sweden has invested in alternative energy sources, phasing out oil smoothly. In 1970, oil accounted for more than 75 per cent of Swedish energy supply; by 2009, the figure was just 32 per cent, chiefly due to the declining use of residential heating oil.
Sweden outlined its present energy policy in 1997. The Swedish National Energy Administration monitors relevant developments.
Sweden consumes a substantial amount of electricity per capita (16,000 kWh per person per year), higher than most countries. The difference is in the carbon emissions – the average Swede releases 5.3 tons of carbon dioxide per year into the atmosphere, compared to the EU average of 8.1 tons and the US average of 19.0 tons.
Wind power has been the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in recent years. Installed capacity multiplied over the past decade.
Sweden puts considerable effort into developing renewable, alternative fuels. Ethanol research began in the 1980s, and Sweden is among the world leaders.
A “pump law” was introduced in 2006 under which all gas stations selling more than 3,000 cubic meters (about 100,000 cubic feet) of gas or diesel per year are required to supply at least one kind of renewable fuel.
Hybrid cars, or vehicles that use electrical (battery) power and fuel, are getting popular. The next step is plug-in hybrids—cars with larger batteries charged from the power grid. In spring 2008, Volvo and Vattenfall, Sweden’s largest power company, embarked on a project to produce the next generation of plug-in hybrids, aiming mass production in 2012.
Energy-efficient housing is a big proposition. Passive houses are built without conventional heating systems and are kept warm by the heat given off by their occupants. Extra thick insulation and intelligent ventilation systems ensure low energy use.
By setting minimum standards for various technical products, there is great potential to reduce energy consumption in televisions, digital boxes, circulation pumps and electric motors.
* Sweden allows new nuclear power plants after deregulation in 2010.
* Swedish customers can freely choose their power supplier from amongst more than 100 companie
* Nord Pool in Oslo, Norway, is where most power suppliers in the Nordic region buy electricity to sell to consumers. There is a spot market with prices by the hour as well as a futures market.
* Water supply decides the power prices due to the large proportion of hydroelectric power in Norway and Sweden.
Article Courtesy of: http://gulfnews.com