Värtaverket in Stockholm, the last coal-fired heating plant in Sweden. Photo: Flickr.com / Arvid Rudling CC BY-SA

Sweden to stop using coal for energy in 2022

The burning of coal for heat and power in Sweden will stop in 2022, which is the deadline for the combined heat and power plant in Stockholm.

The Västerås plant, 100 kilometres west of Stockholm, unloaded its last coal in November 2017 and will stop using it in 2020, when a new boiler for recycled waste wood will be commissioned.

In 2021 Linköping, 200 kilometres south of Stockholm, will stop using coal and oil.

Sweden’s power system has never used much fossil fuels, due to the country’s huge hydro resources, and an enormous nuclear programme. At the peak it had 12 reactors, of which eight remain, with another two to go by 2020. In recent years wind power has contributed about 17 TWh, equivalent to about three nuclear reactors.

District heating is very big in Sweden and was usually built by local government. About half of all space heating comes from district heating – about 180 PJ, or 50 TWh.

District heat was initially fuelled with oil and waste, and later also coal, gas, peat and biomass. Some of it is just for heat, some of it combined with the cogeneration of electricity (CHP). Only about half of district heat has CHP due to the historically strong market position of the power companies. They, led by Vattenfall, controlled most hydro, all nuclear and the few thermal power stations.

With coal about to be phased out, Swedish district heat and CHP are dominated by biofuels and waste heat from industry.

Natural gas is on the wane. E.ON started building a gas power plant in Malmö in 2010, but it has been mothballed for years due to high prices for gas and low prices for electricity.

Peat is still used, though it is on the wane. The largest user, Uppsala (Vattenfall), will stop using peat in 2019. Peat use for heat and power in Sweden decreased from 3.9 to 1.3 TWh between 2009 and 2017.

Waste combustion is big, however, and is still growing. As household waste recycling improves for paper and biogenic waste (for biogas production), the share of plastics increases, and with it CO2 emissions.

CO2 emissions from district heat nevertheless keep dropping, and amounted to 70 kg/MWh in 2017.

Fredrik Lundberg


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