Posted on 01 March 2012
Local ambitions deliver world-class mitigation
Växjö is an internationally outstanding example of climate-change mitigation through locally-sourced renewable energy. This and other mitigation innovations like smart metering and wood-based apartment buildings can be traced to Växjö’s early and highly ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Växjö plans to become fossil-fuel free by 2030 – in 2005 the city's emissions levels were cited as one of the lowest in the world by the International Energy Agency.
Keywords: local renewable energy, demand management, smart metering, ecoBudgets
Växjö’s locally-based renewable energy strategy is focused primarily on the forest and forest industries of its surrounding landscapes. This enabled Växjö, within a short period (around 1 decade), to achieve an energy mix across all sectors that includes more than 50% renewables. This is mainly composed of locally-produced biomass, though the city has developed a diverse energy mix that includes local wind, hydro-power, biogas, solar (PV), and geothermal. Växjö sources all of its district heating from a combined heat and power plant that has been converted from oil to biomass (90.5% wood waste, a by-product of local forestry). The heating sector’s CO2 emissions have been reduced by 76%, according to one estimate, and Växjö’s GHG-emissions level of 3.5t CO2 per capita in 2005 was cited by the International Energy Agency as one of the lowest in the world. Växjö succeeded in reducing per capital GHG 34% by 2009’s close, compared to 1993 benchmarks.
Energy demand management
Energy efficiency strategies in Växjö include ecoBudgets and smart metering. Smart metering delivers real-time information to apartment dwellers on their use of electricity and hot water – even relative to neighbours (see also Austin
). This has led to massive demand reductions: 24% lower electricity consumption and 43% lower hot water use. Another strategy is for new homes built on municipally owned land to consume total energy no higher than 90kWh/sq m/yr.
Reduced energy use facilitates the transition to fossil-free energy in at least two ways. The lower total energy demand can be met with renewables more easily. And, lower total use offsets the initially higher costs of green energy for individual organisations and households.
A key remaining challenge for Växjö's carbon emissions is its transport sector. A range of solutions are being implemented, however, including: biogas from sewage sludge, biodiesel blends, ethanol blends, cycling promotion, and research in biomass gasification.
The success of Växjö’s transition is marked by multiple partnerships at several levels (see also Adelaide
). Biomass is sourced as a waste by-product from private-sector commercial logging in the Växjö region. District heat and electricity are delivered by a company owned by the municipality. Local sourcing of renewable energy improves cost competitiveness – through the positive feedbacks to the local economy, and via employment, spending, and taxation.
National law gives considerable power and encouragement to municipalities to steer environmental performance. Växjö municipality requires itself by law to buy electricity only from renewable sources.
Economic support for the transition to more renewable energy sources was provided by Sustainable Energy Systems in Advanced Cities (CONCERTO – SESAC), a programme of the European Commission and the Swedish national government. In 2007 Växjö also created its own Climate Commission to further coordinate and promote partnerships, and it is a member of the UNEP Climate Neutral Network (see Växjö
IEA International Energy Agency, 2009, Cities, towns & renewable energy: yes in my front yard, Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development / IEA, http://www.iea.org/textbase/nppdf/free/2009/cities2009.pdf
Peter Newman, Timothy Beatley, Heather Boyer, 2009, Resilient cities: responding to peak oil and climate change, Washington, DC: Island Press
City of Växjö, 2011, “Sustainable development”, http://www.vaxjo.se/Other-languages/Other-languages/Engelska--English1/Sustainable-development/
Statistiska centralbyrån, Befolkningsstatistik, http://www.scb.se/Pages/Product____25785.aspx
Text by: Aaron Thomas