According to a government decision, the goal is for Sweden to increase it´s percentage of wind power from the present 0,7 terrawatt-hour (TWh) to 10 TWh by 2015. And despite eight of the countries most electric intensive companies, among them Boliden and LKAB, having recently decided to concentrate on their “own” wind power and despite several wind power parks being under construction around the country, the expansion is going very slow. The fact is that Denmark has much more wind power than Sweden – but why? Are the conditions for wind power better in Denmark than in Sweden? Is the interest in green energy larger there than here? Or do Danish politicians have a greater knowledge of wind power than their Swedish counterparts?
After the oil crisis of the 1970s, the goal of the Swedish government’s energy policy has been to increase the use of renewable energy sources. With the help of new taxes and subsidies, Swedish wind power is presently a competitive alternative compared to other energy sources. With subsidies and taxes reductions, electricity from wind power costs 20-23 öre/kilowatt-hour (kWh) to produce. Notwithstanding the good economic conditions and the government’s high objectives, Sweden is being literally left behind by many other EU countries; for example, Denmark and Germany have a greater wind power expansion than Sweden.
But why is this?
– In Sweden, establishing wind power is regarded as any other activity, while in countries such as Germany and Denmark, there are specially written laws that exist to facilitate wind power expansion or renewable energy in general, says Maria Pettersson, researcher in jurisprudence at Luleå University of Technology.
– Sweden’s environmental law is generally written, meaning that various “green” interests bump heads with each other. For example, the building of a wind power station, considered in itself environmentally friendly, goes against the argument for preservation of a natural area.
Preservation of the landscape’s appearance is perhaps the biggest stumbling-block associated with establishing wind power, in any case for those living in the immediate surroundings. How many times could we not follow the debate through television and various local newspapers where irritated residents opposed the establishment with arguments of spoiled views and increased noise?
– The lone citizen has strong legal support for this type of argument. Unlike, for example, mineral deposits and road construction, the government cannot expropriate, in other words force the release of land for wind power establishment, which further supports lone opponents of wind power.
At the same time, people will, of course, have the right to express their opinions on wind power in their surrounding area, and attitudes to wind power have shown to be more positive the more influence the local people have. Yet, it has also been shown that a large influence from the citizens can lead to wind power being placed in less than ideal locations, and then suddenly one is left with a wind power that is both ineffective and take up a lot of space.
– Not even at the municipal level does wind power give any special advantages. The building of a wind power station is placed on par with the building of whichever industry building. The reason is project and building laws that give municipal leaders lots of opportunities to put a stop the establishment within the municipality, says Maria Pettersson.
– A solution would be that parliament and the government classified the area as a so-called national interest for wind power. This means that the area is considered to be particularly suitable for wind power, making it legally easier for the developer/investor to push through the building.
An example of this is the establishment of 48 wind power stations near Alavattnet north of Strömsund in Jämtland. The construction will be one of Sweden’s largest wind power parks and will produce approximately 0,3 TWh of electricity, equal to household electricity for 60.000 houses per year.
What can therefore be done to overcome the slow development of wind power?
According to Maria Pettersson, one might consider the government getting increased influence over the new establishment of wind power parks, such as through work with designating national interests. Perhaps the point of view of each municipal resident could be decided without them knowing beforehand if they will affect the establishment or not.
– One way to get away from the argument concerning the spoiled appearance of the landscape and land usage disputes can be to build wind power parks out to sea. It is certainly more expensive than building on land, but disputes with the local residents and municipalities to a greater extent are avoided.
Kristina Ek, who conducts research in economics at LTU, has studied how Swedes think regarding wind power in general and the influence on our environment in particular.
– In general, the public is positive; what determines the attitudes is mostly if and how the appearance of the landscape will be affected. In the questionnaire included in my research report, the answers show that the majority prefer wind power stations out to sea rather than land, the exception being coastal and mountain areas, which most consider important to maintain untouched. Also, the size of the parks has meaning, with small parks being preferred to large parks, while single windmills should be avoided, says Kristina Ek.
One of the determining factors in the general view towards wind power is about noise. The noise level from a wind power station, in other words a single windmill, is around 40 decibels, as much noise as a new freezer emits. Electricity prices today are approximately 45 öre/kWh and among those who answered the questionnaire, many could consider paying up to 15 öre more if the electricity came from a wind power.
– The opposite was also there. Some wanted the price of electricity to drop by 10 öre for them to consider wind power. House owners want, to a higher extent than people with other forms of housing, that the political establishment decide which energy law the electricity will be produced from – not the individual consumer.
TEXT: Lena Edenbrink
RESEARCH: Patrik Wilhelmson, Olov Ström, Anders Pettersson and Fredrik Nordblad.
PHOTO: Nicke Johansson
The article was originally published in Good Technology, nr 2, 2007.