Renewable and recycled fuels

Almost 90 per cent of our district heating is generated from renewable or recycled fuels. Since the 1990s, we have doubled the geographical area to which we supply heat, but have reduced our total greenhouse gas emissions from our district heating.

This is a key reason for Stockholm being named by the EU as the world’s first European Green Capital in 2010.

Our goals are not only related to greenhouse gases. It is also important not to use more of the Earth’s resources than the planet can cope with. Therefore, we primarily use residual products, such as waste or residues from forestry, and surplus heat from, for example, data centres and supermarket refrigerated counters to heat Stockholm. Resources that are taken from nature to become energy, are generally known as primary energy. We’re aiming to get as close to zero primary energy use as possible.

Heat emissions reduced by two thirds

It is important that we achieve our targets because our actions are decisive for Stockholm’s overall climate transformation. If we broaden our perspective from our own operations to Stockholm as a whole, our impact becomes obvious.

Heating is one of the world’s largest sources of emissions. In 1990, simply heating Stockholm caused more greenhouse gas emissions than transport and electricity generation – combined.

Almost 30 years later, Stockholm is as nice and warm in the winter as it was in 1990, but heating generates 0.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide per inhabitant per year, instead of 2.9 tonnes. One explanation for this is that many people have made their homes more energy efficient: better insulation, smarter heating systems, and modern window panes. Another explanation is that thousands of Stockholmers have replaced their own boilers with district heating.

The whole of Stockholm’s environmental footprint has more than halved, largely because heating emissions have dropped by two thirds.

Our district heating has thus become more renewable and efficient itself, but it is at least as important that even more Stockholmers have switched to district heating. We are approaching 100 per cent renewable or recycled energy, and Stockholm is aiming to be an entirely fossil-free capital city. But the closer you get to zero, the harder it becomes.

As far as we are aware, no other capital city has made a change of this magnitude before. And the target date is tough. But by working collaboratively, we will succeed.