Today 1 October, in an article in the debate section of the Swedish national daily, DN, Minister for Sustainable Development Mona Sahlin announces the government plan to break dependency on oil by 2020. This makes Sweden the first country to publicly announce its intention to break away from oil. The government intend for Sweden to be the first country to reach oil independence.
Mona Sahlin cites two reasons for this new political goal. One is the need to curb greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the effects of global warming. The other is the vulnerability nations face as disruptions to oil and petrol production upset economies throughout the world. Recent catastrophes have underlined this.
Mona Sahlin says an early break from oil dependency will give Sweden a competitive edge among other things as an exporter of technology in the renewable fuel and energy efficiency sector.
Sweden has already made some progress. The percentage of oil used in home heating and energy production is low by international standards. Since 1994 oil use has reduced by 15.2 TWh. Industrial consumption of oil has remained at the same levels for nearly a decade, despite production output increases of 70%.
Sweden offers already several political instruments to encourage users away from oil: investment subsides, energy consumption standards, loans with subsidized interest rates and information campaigns.
The new plan will contain several elements:
• Tax discounts for house owners to convert away from oil heating.
• An extended program of “Green Energy” certification of electricity. From 2002 levels the amount of renewable energy produced will increase by 15TWh.
• A government backed inquiry into the possibilities of increasing agricultural production of renewable energy sources.
• Directive to the state owned electricity production company Vattenfall to substantially increase investment in renewable energy.
• Strengthening of incentives to stimulate renewable fuels. For cars, free parking and exemption from congestion charges, carbon dioxide and energy tax exemptions on renewable fuels during a five year period. Tax exemptions also for company cars running on renewable fuels.
• Next year the government will propose an increase in investments into renewable energy. Research and development will lead to energy production from renewable resources and further increases in energy efficiency.
• Development of district heating will continue. Economic incentives will encourage use of bio-fuels and environmentally friendly heating.