Expectations high as new targets adopted -- New legislation coming in Sweden

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Sweden has had a relatively good 12 months for wind power development, although it fell short of a 300 MW target for new capacity in 2008. The 235 MW added, taking total installed wind capacity to around 1020 MW, still makes it a record year and in another milestone, annual wind generated electricity output also passed the 2 TWh mark. For this year, around 250-300 MW of wind capacity is expected to come online, says Matthias Rapp of industry organisation Swedish Wind Energy (SWE).

Longer term, the future is also looking positive. Sweden's wind power production goal is set to increase to 30 TWh a year by 2020, up from a target production of 10 TWh a year by 2015, part of a wider current goal for 17 TWh from all renewables by 2016. The extended target follows the recommendations of the Swedish Energy Agency (SEA), which advocated the higher target in its 2007 report, New Planning Target for Wind Power for 2020. Onshore wind will account for 20 TWh and offshore 10 TWh under the SEA plan.

The government, which is currently drafting legislation as part of a new energy strategy due this spring, has accepted the SEA's recommendation as a planning goal. In the context of its national renewable energy support program, however, the government is expected to set the target at 25 TWh from all renewables by 2020. The thinking is that wind will account for virtually all of the 25 TWh, including 10 TWh from offshore. "There will not be much new hydro power due to environmental restrictions and biomass-fuelled combined heat and power is moving to capacity. What remains is wind power and geothermal energy through heat pumps," says Rapp.

The driver for wind development in Sweden is a legislated requirement for the submission of green electricity certificates on behalf of all power consumers to demonstrate that a rising proportion of Sweden's electricity demand is being met from renewable sources to enable the goals to be met. That the policy may be working is reflected in the buoyant mood in Sweden's wind industry despite the government's recent u-turn on its nuclear policy, which has opened the door to the possibility of new nuclear power stations. On the downside, however, Vattenfall has already announced that it will not now develop offshore wind and is instead considering building a new nuclear reactor (page 120).

Rapp is confident the country's new energy policy will help ease some of the current obstacles to increased wind development, suggesting the government is listening to SWE's concerns and clearing away hurdles. For one, a bill to eliminate Sweden's dual-track permitting process, so that project applications only go through the environment department for approval, is expected.

Until the new legislation is revealed, it is hard to predict with any confidence how much new capacity will be installed in Sweden beyond this year, Rapp says, but annual installations will have to hit around 800 MW for Sweden's 2020 objective to be achieved. "We're where Spain was a decade ago," he adds. "We have got a functioning green certificates system, in spite of the financial crisis, we are probably going to have another record year in terms of installed capacity, and in general, developers are keen on Sweden."

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