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Some 50,000 households in Sweden received information leaflets last month detailing measures for a five year sustainable energy strategy from 1996 to 2000. The strategy included measures for energy saving and for more use of wind, solar and other renewables. What the households were not aware of, however, was that the leaflets, far from outlining official policy, were mailed by Greenpeace Sweden as part of the launch of its energy action campaign.

The 20 page documents -- apparently from the local electricity companies -- outlined an energy strategy for the counties of Norrkoeping, Joenkoeping and Karlstad. The hoax plans contained several good offers for customers, including the option to exchange, free of charge, existing shower heads with new energy efficient units; a lump sum of SEK 500 for replacement of old energy consuming refrigerators; and loans to households prepared to invest in solar collectors for hot water and heating, to be repaid over future energy bills.

A major part of the Greenpeace strategy centred on development of new power plants using renewables, wind figuring strongly among them. Based solely on available technology -- wind turbines, solar collectors, heat pumps, combined cycle biomass co-generation and programmes for increasing efficiency and decreasing peak demand -- the strategy also used current production costs for all sources.

Even so Greenpeace was able to point out that if followed, its strategy would do away with the need for more electricity from nuclear plant in the three counties at little or no extra cost. This was apparently deemed credible by many. Opinion polls carried out in the provinces at the same time as the brochures were released revealed that 53-56% of households were prepared to pay more for "green electricity." This need not necessarily mean higher bills, though. Households prepared to invest in energy saving would lower their consumption, though pay a little more per kilowatt hour consumed. Meantime, implementation of the strategy would create hundreds of new jobs opportunities in these communities, argued Greenpeace.

The energy plans were distributed on Sunday March 3 and attracted front page headlines in the local press on Monday in Norrkoeping and on Tuesday in Joenkoeping and Karlstad. Although annoyed at the Greenpeace hoax, at least one utility -- Joenkoeping Energi -- had the grace to say it would look at the possibility of implementing the Greenpeace plan.

According to a law from the last decade, Swedish county councils are required to prepare energy plans to reduce their dependence on oil and open the way for the closure of all Sweden's nuclear power plants by the year 2010. Very few counties have so far made such plans. Greenpeace claimed after its campaign that all it was doing was showing the counties how this requirement could be met.

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