Press release 2016-05-24

Industry and transport – greatest challenges for carbon neutral Nordic countries

In the end of May a Nordic edition of the renowned International Energy Agency (IEA) global publication Energy Technology Perspectives was launched. The report shows that the Nordic countries can achieve a carbon-neutral region by 2050 by cooperating – but it requires that politicians take the challenges that the industries are facing seriously and increase the tempo within the area of transport.

IVL, Swedish environmental research institute, Markus Wråke

– The really large challenges are within the industrial and transport sectors, where energy is used. So far, the Nordic countries have primarily focused on a clean energy supply, and this is a success which now must be replicated in other sectors. We are so dependent on our energy-intensive primary industries and therefore we now need to focus on innovation and technology, says Markus Wråke, energy expert at IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute and the project manager for the Nordic Energy Technology Perspective 2016.

Along with the IEA and other researchers from the Nordic countries, he has studied the technical and political possibilities of reducing the Nordic energy-related emissions by 85 percent by 2050 compared with 1990. It is achievable but will require political and technological innovations.

Large challenges exist in the industrial and transport sectors. Particularly difficult is the emissions from steel and cement production. To get rid of these either a major technological breakthrough is required, or to start capturing and storing the emissions in the ground. The report concludes that future carbon capture and storage (CCS) innovations will be crucial in order to reduce those process-related emissions that cannot be reduced by energy efficiency or renewable energy.

– Sweden is very dependent on these industries. At the same time Sweden has invested very little in radically improved production methods and has also been strangely hesitant to carbon capture and storage. It is still very unclear what the government thinks, and I hope that the Energy Commission will take a lead regarding this issue, says Markus Wråke.

The government also needs to plan for an energy system without nuclear power which is simply too expensive and will disappear because of that reason. At the same time it would be foolish, both financially and for the environment, if all the reactors were dismantled too quickly. In the report, researchers estimate that nuclear energy will decrease from 22 percent of the Nordic electricity market to 6 percent in 2050; assisted by the aging of the reactors, future energy efficiency and the evolvement of wind power.

It is possible to make the transport sector fossil free with a combination of electrification, biofuels, smarter urban planning and mobility solutions, but the pace of the transition needs to accelerate. The sector currently accounts for more than 20 percent of the Nordic region's greenhouse gas emission.

– We know of plenty/There are plenty of policy tools that work and that can be used more. As a few examples one could mention how infrastructure investments must be better coordinated with our climate targets, how vehicle taxes should be more differentiated and how the current conditions for company cars could be revised.

– Another key issue is the role of the cities - we expect that the Nordic cities will grow by 200 000 people per year in the coming decades. To utilise the unique opportunities that cities have for energy efficiency is therefore very important, concludes Markus Wråke.

Download the report (executive summary)

Full report

For questions please contact:
Markus Wråke, markus.wrake@ivl.se, tel. +46 10-788 65 21

Nordic Energy Technology Perspective 2016 is the second regional edition of the IEA's renowned global publication Energy Technology Perspectives. The project has been in collaboration with the IEA and leading research institutes in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, in addition to Nordic Energy Research. The former Nordic edition from 2013 showed that a carbon neutral Nordic region is possible by 2050 (see www.nordicetp.org). The 2016 edition shows how such a result can best be reached.

Two illutrations from the report: The left illustrates the huge challenge that is facing transport: passenger transport is expected to almost double by 2050, while emissions are to be reduced by 80%.The right shows the net export of electricity from the Nordic countries and the expected dramatic increase in demand for (clean) Nordic electricity when the rest of Europe will start to reduce emissions. This will create new revenues for Sweden, but is also a potential problem as the primary industry will then receive higher electricity prices.