Stockholm may not be the city that comes to mind when you think of going fossil fuel-free by 2050. But that is the Swedish capital’s goal. “The city is well on the way to achieving its goal,” proclaims Stockholm’s action plan called Vision 2030.
Formed in 2007, the Vision 2030 plan outlines the city’s goals, one of which is to be the green capital of the world by 2030. Meanwhile, Stockholm’s population keeps growing. In 2008, the population of the city hit 808,600 residents, and it’s expected to be 1 million by 2030.
That means that, with a population forecasted to be over 200,000 more than today, Stockholm still expects to be the world’s green capital. Or as Vision 2030 declares, “The region’s population increase has had little or no effect on the local environment, making Stockholm an international role model.”
Clean transportation and energy must expand
What is Stockholm doing to achieve its environmental goals? The simple answer is plenty. Transportation is a key element of the city’s plans. Many Stockholm residents drive what Vision 2030 describes as “clean vehicles,” which includes hybrid and electric cars.
The city’s increasing embrace of clean vehicles coincides with Sweden’s goal of having a fossil fuel-free vehicle fleet by 2030. In 2014, 12 percent of Sweden’s vehicle fleet was fossil-free. Alternative fuels will likely play a part in Sweden reaching that goal as the country is pumping money into research and development, including $1.5 million in ethanol.
The city has already reduced emissions with “smart traffic solutions and information technology,” Vision 2030 states. One of those solutions is a congestion tax. Driving into Stockholm’s center during rush hours means paying about $4, Public Radio International reports. Residents who drive past a control point are automatically registered and a bill is sent to the vehicle’s owner. Introduced in 2007, the congestion tax reduced traffic by 20 percent from 2005 levels even though the city’s population is increasing.
Many residents of Stockholm use public transportation. But the capacity will need to be increased if the city is to cope with the 350,000 new journeys the predicted population increase will create, according to the Roadmap for a Fossil Fuel Free Stockholm 2050. And public transportation will have to be clean. Already, trains in Stockholm are running on electricity that is produced mostly from fossil fuel-free sources (hydro-power, nuclear and wind).
Energy needs will have to be met from fossil-fuel free sources, and that means phasing out fossil fuels. Coal from a plant near Stockholm is one source that is used for heating and electricity. The energy company, Fortum Värme, is “striving to gradually replace the coal with biofuels,” the Roadmap for a Fossil Fuel Free Stockholm states. The Roadmap estimates that the coal plant will be decommissioned by 2050.
Although oil for heating is used only in a limited capacity, it will also need to be phased out. About 600 multi-occupancy dwellings and few thousand single-occupancy dwellings now get their heat from oil-fired boilers, according to the Roadmap’s estimates. Over the past 20 years a good portion of the heating oil has been phased out, and it is estimated that it will “probably be phased out by 2050.” Gas is another fossil fuel that is used in a limited capacity as energy in boilers. Biogas can be used to replace gas, which necessitates a big expansion of biogas production.
Stockholm, and Sweden in general, serve as models for the world. Sweden, the first country to pass an environmental protection act, reached its 2020 goal of 50 percent renewable energy use in 2012. As Stockholm and Sweden meet their environmental goals, they set an example for other cities and countries to follow.
Image credit: Flickr/Thomas Fabian