Rhein on Energy and Climate

After 30 years of banning new nuclear power and decommissioning four reactors, the Swedish government has reversed its anti-nuclear course. The 10 reactors operating presently can continue until the end of their economic life time, maximum 60 years, and be replaced by new, even bigger ones on the present sites. But they will not receive any direct or indirect subsidies for doing so.

Nuclear power, providing 23 TWh, will therefore continue to be one of the two pillars, together with hydro power, of the Swedish power supply, each supplying roughly half of it.

In the next 15 years the expansion of power supply will essentially come from wind power, from which Sweden wants to draw as much as 30 TWh by 2020.

Thanks to this far-sighted strategy Sweden hopes to be able to reduce its C02 emissions by 40 percent until 2020, twice as much as the EU average. As much as 10 percent of its transport should be operated by renewable in 2020 and 100 percent 2030!

By 2050, Sweden aims at having in place a completely sustainable energy system, with no net emissions of green house gases! No other European country, with the possible exception of Iceland and Switzerland, seems able and politically bold enough to formulate such objectives.

Sweden is, no doubt, a special case. The country is well endowed with natural resources, from land to forests and water. Its population density is one of the lowest in Europe, and its population is well-educated and disciplined.

Still, it should teach us two basic lessons.

First, for ordinary European countries it will be next to impossible to reduce their C02 emissions by the required 80 percent until 2050, relying only on proven renewables like wind, solar and traditional biomass.

They will have to step up energy efficiency substantially, resort to nuclear energy and/or carbon sequestration and import rising shares of energy from EU neighbours and North Africa This goes in particular for countries like Germany and Poland, which posses neither enough wind nor solar power to satisfy their demand.

Second, without resolute governments, looking far ahead into the future and ready to convince their citizens of the need to accept certain changes and sacrifices in the use of energy, e.g. higher prices, humanity is bound to fail the test of successfully tackling climate change. .

Sweden is ideally positioned to assume the EU presidency during the critical months before and during the Copenhagen Climate Conference in December 2009, the success of which will be of vital importance for future living conditions on the planet.

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  1. I think this is a groundbreaking news. For the critics of nuclear power Sweden has been always the reference, and the fact that they realized that the dangers of nuclear power are less acute than CO2 emissions may change the dynamics of the Eurpoean debate, too.

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