How Sweden can produce 30 times of its current electricity need from 100% renewable energy sources and at a lower cost than when using fossil fuels.

In my latest article, I debated how we can overcome climate change and the three critical steps that are necessary in order to achieving a clean energy transition completely based on 100% renewable energy. To summarise the necessary key factors: (1) Improved energy storage technologies, (2) A breakthrough of innovations, and finally (3) A stronger and more flexible electrical grid. Adapting and focusing on these solutions would contribute tremendously in solving climate issues. However, this got me thinking, is it practically possible to change the entire energy system in Sweden to 100% renewables? Can renewables compete against storage concerning costs, efficiency and ...? In this article, I will explain how it might be done.

The total electricity use in Sweden the last couple of years usually lies at 140 TWh (Energimyndigheten; ekonomifakta; SCB). The industry sector accounted for 50 TWh (35%), the housing and service sector accounted for 73 TWh (52%) and the transport sector for 3 TWh (2%). In 2017, 58% of all electricity produced in Sweden came from renewable energy sources such as hydro power, bio fuel and wind and solar power.

In Norrbotten Country in Northern Sweden, Europes largest wind park is currently being constructed. In the end of 2019, Markbygden 1101 will produce 3 TWh of clean electricity annually ( The wind park is expected to produce up to 10 TWh of electricity annually when the wind park is fully developed. This corresponds to the electricity consumption of 400 000 Swedish households. This also equals 7% of Swedens total electricity use and stands for 1/3 of Swedens green energy goals for 2030. The wind farm will cover 450 km², which corresponds to 0,1% of the total surface of Sweden and will consist of 1,100 wind turbines.

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Source: Svea vind

Why is this relevant?

Sweden’s total land area is 40,8 million hectares (450 295 km²) according to Riksskogstaxeringen. The total area comprising of forrest is 28 million hectares (310 000 km²), which accounts for 69% of Swedens total land area. Forestry combined with wind turbines are an excellent combination, since the actual surface area per wind turbine is very small and in a rural area it causes less disturbance. So, let’s move on to some calculations:

450 km² of the wind park equals an electricity production of 10 TWh annually. 450 km² / 310 000 km² = 0,14% of Swedens forrest area. This means that approximately 688 wind parks of the size of Markbygden could theoretically be built in Sweden. 688 x 10 TWh = 6 888 TWh, which accounts for 6 888/141 TWh = 49 times of Sweden’s current electricity use. Maybe it is not realistic that all of Swedens forrest area could be exploited for building a wind park, so let's look at more reasonable numbers, let's say 400 wind parks for instance. This would equal approximately 30 times of Swedens current electricity use. The main point is that Sweden has possibilities for expanding the supply of renewable electricity sources.

Can renewable energy and storage compete with fossil fuels?

The main obstacle limiting the expansion of renewables has mainly surrounded the question regarding costs. But Lazard’s unsubsidised LCOE analysis indicates significant historical cost declines for utility-scale alternative energy generation technologies driven by, among other factors, decreasing supply chain costs, improving technologies and increased competition. The picture below shows that both solar, wind and geothermal power is cheaper than both coal and nuclear power. The percentage to the right represents the total decrease in the average LCOE over a period of nine years.

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Source: Lazard version 12.0

Nuclear power: $112-189 dollar per MWh

Coal: $60-143 dollar per MWh

Wind +100% storage: $110-220 dollar per MWh

More realistic: Wind + 50% storage: 110/2 - 220/2 = $55 – 110 dollar per MWh

So, the answer to the question is yes, regarding costs renewables already are cheaper than both coal and nuclear power.

Why nuclear power should be scaled down

Like most of you know there are several downsides with utilizing electricity from nuclear power like dealing with the waste issues, uranium mining and security risks to name a few. The nuclear waste is dangerous several thousand years after having been produced. So long time that for example Mammoth Mountain in the US is using figures instead of the English language to signal for danger. The waste will still be dangerous when English doesn’t even exist as a language anymore. Sweden has started to phase out fossil fuels and started replacing it with renewable energy sources. Nuclear power is a transition source, it is better than other "dirtier" fuels, but Sweden has come such a long way and other technologies exist so it is time to replace nuclear plants in steps. The situations look a bit different globally regarding population, welfare and technology advancement. About 50 power reactors are currently being constructed in 15 countries such as China, USA, India, Belarus and the UK (World Nuclear). This will have a positive impact on reducing emissions, but it will simultaneously increase the number of risks mentioned above. Some of the countries have the possibilities of expanding their amount of clean energy instead.

The construction time and capital costs of nuclear power plants are far too long and far too expensive. The capital costs as outlined below, ranges between $6 500-12 250 dollar, compared with wind power that ranges between $1150-1550 dollar, there is a huge difference. The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency calculated the overnight capital cost of construction of a nuclear plant to $3,850/kW. This means that in order to build a 1 GW plant, it would cost about $4 billion. If you measure with a 40-year life span including interest rate, this results in a total cost of more than $17 billion (Stanford University). The wind farm mentioned earlier cost $1,7 billion dollar to build for 1 GW, in comparison a nuclear plant cost $4 billion for 1 GW. However, nuclear plants have higher efficiency than wind power, but combined with storage it can meet our consumption levels.

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Source: Lazard version 12.0

In conclusion, Sweden’s land areal enables us to produce 58 times our current electricity use, but perhaps approximately 30 times our current use is more realistic. Renewable energy sources are already cheaper than both coal and nuclear power. Maximising the potential of renewables and storage can give us an energy supply comprising of 100% renewable energy sources.

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Christopher Engman, Author Megadeals, Chairman Mine Storage, Clean energy writer and speaker, investor in 15 companies (blend of green energy and marketing technologies)