Zero Carbon Compendium


'The proportion of renewable energy used in Sweden has increased from 34% in 1990 to 44.4% in 2010, and today has the highest proportion of renewable energy in the EU, with a goal to reach 49% by 2020'

Key Facts

Country Population:9.1 m
Capital Population:1.2 m
Area:410, 935 km²
Density:23 people/km²

National Carbon Overview

Sweden has about 3.1 million households at an average size of 2.9 persons per household.[1] There are four housing sectors in Sweden: owner occupied, private tenants, social tenants, and housing cooperatives.[2] In 2004, owner-occupied dwellings accounted for about 40% of the housing market, while social, private tenants and cooperatives each accounted for 20%.

In comparison to other OECD countries, the Swedish per capita electricity consumption is very high, due to a high share of energy intensive industry and electricity use for household heating.[3] Despite this, per capita emissions are very low, as a result of extensive use of hydropower and biomass energy. Following the 1996 Chernobyl incident, the future of nuclear energy in the country has remained a major energy policy question, as no decisions have been made to phase it out. This is unlikely given that 45% of Sweden's electricity comes from nuclear generation.[4] In 2010, the proportion of renewable energy used in Sweden was 44.4% and today it has the highest proportion of renewable energy in the EU, with a goal to reach 49% by 2020.[5]

The housing stock in Sweden is relatively new: three-quarters of the stock was built after 1940. About a quarter of the housing in the three largest cities was built as part of the Million Programme (1965-1974), which aimed to construct a million dwellings over ten years


Exemplar Project

Hammarby Sjostad
Stockholm, 1990-2010

Hammarby. Andrew Mellor PRP.

This car-free community of 11,000 dwellings and 25,000 residents was designed with a view to cutting the environmental impact of the whole development by 50% compared to typical 1990's development. The 'Hammarby Model' is the integrated strategy which governs the environmental solutions for Energy, Water, Sewage, and Waste.

Overseen by the City Development and Planning Administrations, the development is built on a former industrial brownfield and is based on high building standards (similar to Passivhaus). It also includes the use of local energy generation and district heat from waste incineration, biofuels and sewage heat recovery which have served to increase energy efficiency. Many apartments have solar panels incorporated into their fabric. Storm water and sewage water is collected and recycled, and a vacuum system for refuse collection, sorting and disposal has enabled an efficient waste to energy conversion. The masterplan has included an education centre, the GlashusEtt, which has served to encourage pro-environmental behaviour by residents, reducing energy and water usage even further. With its comfortable and vibrant public realm, Hammarby has become one of Europe's most enlightened communities in terms of market acceptance of a low carbon society.[7]

Policy and Targets

Under the Kyoto Protocol, Sweden is limited to a 4% increase from 1990 levels in GHG emissions between 2008 and 2012. Emissions from the household and services sector decreased from 1990- 2006, mainly because of the switch from oil to district heating. In 2009, total emissions have dropped by 17% from 1990 levels.[6] Successful national policies have been put in place to reduce energy demand and to encourage decentralised energy generation from alternative sources.

Sweden has set 16 Environmental Quality Objectives (EQOs) that are to be reached by 2020, with the overall goal of passing on an environmentally sound society to the next generation. Aiming to involve public agencies, organisations, enterprises and individuals, annual reports on progress have been released since 2002.

Existing Frameworks

Sweden has pursued energy efficient design since the 1970's, with differing mandatory standards for north and south due to climatic variation. Sweden's current mandatory regulations, the National Board of Housing Building and Planning Regulations (2007), are already in line with Passivhaus standards, and as such no further voluntary codes are deemed necessary. These specify maximum heating, domestic hot water and cooling electricity requirements, average and elemental U-values, thermal bridging standards, air tightness, solar shading and ventilation system efficiencies.

Performance standards in Sweden are among the highest energy efficiency requirements in the world, with U-values of 0.13-0.14 W/m2K for the south and 0.12-0.13 W/m2K for the north, and a total energy performance (all regulated energy) of 110 kWh/m2/year in the south and 130 kWh/m2/year in the north.

Support, Incentives and Grants

Low energy development has been strongly driven by CO2 taxes and high oil prices. These have also increased the adoption of alternative renewable fuel technology. The overall fiscal energy structure in Sweden (including taxes on electricity and heating oil, high performance construction standards and R&D efforts) has provided a sufficient framework for breaking the normal barriers to market adoption.

In 2006, the government launched the Incentives for Investment in Lower-Energy Buildings under the Energy Declaration of Buildings Act. As part of the EU Directive on the Energy Performance of Buildings, it includes support for the purchase of energy-efficient windows and biomass boilers for up to 30% of the cost.

The Energy Efficient Home Consumer Campaign was introduced in 2007, demonstrating technical solutions to improve daily energy efficiency in Swedish homes and is directed at both individual homeowners and the owners of multi-dwelling buildings.



  1. UN Data. Country Profile: Sweden.
  2. Kemp, P. (1996). 'Sweden' in Housing Policy in the EU Member States. European Parliament.
  3. OECD Working Group on Innovation and Technology Policy. (2000). Innovation and the Environment.
  4. International Energy Agency. (2008). Energy Policies of IEA Countries: Sweden 2008 Review.
  5. Nordic Energy Solutions. (2009). Renewable energy in Sweden.
  6. Ministry of the Environment. (2010). Record reduction in Swedish emissions. Press Release.
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