Likely not a change for the better -- New Swedish government

National energy policy in Sweden could be about to take a turn for the worse as far as wind power is concerned. A right-leaning alliance of the Centre, Moderate, Christian Democrat and Folk Liberal parties swept to power in Sweden in mid-September elections, with a Moderate prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, now holding the reins of government. The defeat of the Social Democrats, who have led the country with few interruptions for the last 70 years, included the resignation of prime minister Göran Persson. He was one of Europe's longest serving leaders and considered a champion of clean energy and wind power.

Reinfeldt, on the other hand, is an advocate of building out Sweden's nuclear capacity at existing stations and is considered to be less interested in environmental matters. In spite of a safety incident that shuttered Sweden's Forsmark nuclear plant in the summer, in recent surveys over half the populace supports continued operation of existing stations.

Gunnar Fredriksson, head of the Swedish wind power producers group, says it is uncertain whether Reinfeldt's government will keep the sustainable development ministry that has been a cheerleader for wind over the last four years. He anticipates, however, the current market structure for wind power, based on trade in renewable energy certificates, remaining, at least for the time being.

"In the short term, the certificate system will stay in place -- what we don't know is which ministries the new government might form," Fredriksson says. "If they went back to an older system where energy was partly handled under the environment ministry and partly under industry that would be very, very bad for us. We also don't know who is going to be in charge of energy issues -- and that's a very important question that remains unanswered right now."

For and against

Of the four parties in the new ruling alliance, only the Centre party is a consistent advocate of wind. Reinfeldt's party as well as the Christian Democrats and the Folk Liberals came out publicly in recent weeks against the controversial Skottarev offshore wind plant proposed off the west coast. But Jan-Åke Johansson of Favonius, the developer of Skottarev, says he doubts the power shift will have direct bearing on the project's prospects. Favonius is expecting a decision from Sweden's environmental court in the spring on whether it gets final permission to build 30 turbines in the Kattegat Sea between Denmark and Sweden.

Fredriksson says he looks to the Centre party to be a watchdog, keeping the Moderates on track for wind energy in Sweden. "Our biggest problem right now is not what the government says or does but the tight supply of turbines," Fredriksson says. "In front of me I have a long list of approved projects that could put five terawatt hours online in 2009 or latest 2010. On the other hand, ordering turbines today has a two or three year waiting time. Getting machines is our most pressing issue in Sweden."

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