Sustainable Cities™

Växjö: Fossil Fuel Free City

In 1996 Växjo, a small town in Sweden decided to be fossil fuel free. The municipality engineered a partnership with local firms, industries and transport companies to achieve this goal. They created a policy commitment “Fossil Fuel Free Växjö” to stop using fossil fuels and reduce CO² emissions in heating, energy, transport, businesses and homes. Rigorous planning and close monitoring of all CO² emissions is their recipe. They have been particular successful in using biomass for district heating.

Girl at lake in Växsjö, Flickr Creative Commons

When Växjö decided to be fossil fuel free in 1996, the city had already good experiences with using biomass in their district heating. When the municipality asked the transport companies, industries and firms in Växjö to join them in their mission, they liked the challenge too. Together they created a policy commitment "Fossil Fuel Free Växjö" to stop using fossil fuels and reduce CO² emissions in heating, energy, transport, businesses and homes. They wanted to take responsibility as a city and show that it is possible also to do something for the climate even if in a small city.

The city is now ahead of its goals in the majority of these commitments. 51% of its energy comes from sources such as biomass, hydro power, geothermal and solar energy. In little over a decade, emissions have been reduced by 24% per person to 3.5 tons of CO² annually - well below the European (8 CO²t/a) and world (4 CO²t/a) averages. With this track record, Växjö may well be the world's first fossil free city by 2015.

 Växjö power plant, Flickr Creative Commons

To achieve the impressive results, the municipality has rigorously planned and closely measured all CO² emissions. CO² emissions and energy savings have been monitored in three categories - heating, electricity and transport. In areas where improvements are necessary - the city adapts its policies accordingly. One of the main reasons for Växjö's progress is the massive expansion of its district heating system along side greater use of biomass. High oil prices and favourable subsidies have also encouraged households to change their heating systems. As a result, nearly 88% of heating came from renewable energy sources in 2005 (858 GWh).

The largest share came from biomass, with some use of peat, oil and geothermal energy. The biomass used is woodchips, a waste product from the forest industry. A very small proportion of solar energy was also used. Due to an earlier municipal failure in implementing solar energy in district heating, households is still using wood chips boilers in their homes instead of solar panels. To reduce energy consumption, the municipality has installed metering systems in student houses and recently built houses. Furthermore the Municipality of Växjö has put energy use restrictions on properties they sell and has started investing in passive houses etc. Improving electricity efficiency and transport matters has been more difficult and will be in focus the next couple of years.



Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014