Over half of Sweden’s landmass is covered by forest. Forests are an important source of renewable raw materials; they also bind carbon dioxide and are valuable for wildlife, outdoor activities and recreation.
Bioenergy is the leading energy source in Sweden today. The Swedish energy system has gone through a major transformation. In the 1970s oil was totally dominating. Today, oil is almost entirely a transport fuel, whereas bioenergy has taken over in district heating, and plays a major role in industry and in electricity production.
The use of bioenergy in Sweden has increased from 40 TWh/year in the 1970s to around 140 TWh today. In 2009, bioenergy surpassed oil as the leading energy source for the Swedish energy consumption. The same year, the total use of bioenergy was more than the use of electricity from hydropower and nuclear power together.
Biomass has a dominant position in the Swedish heat market, to a large part as fuel in district heating. Biomass is also the main energy source in energy intensive forest-based industries. Bio-electricity, biopower, accounts for 7–9 percent of Sweden’s power production, and biofuels are making inroads into transport fuels. Bioenergy is characterised by diversity, and by expansion in all markets.
Increased bioenergy use is the main reason that Sweden managed to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent between 1990 and 2014, while GNP increased by 60 percent. Bioenergy use more than doubled during the period.
The primary reason for the tremendous growth of the bioenergy sector in Sweden is broad political support and the use of strong general incentives like the Swedish carbon dioxide tax (introduced in 1991) the green electricity certificates (introduced in 2003), and tax exemption for biofuels for transport, as well as direct investment supports.
The bioenergy success story also rests on the long-standing Swedish tradition of using the natural resources in our forests, whilst simultaneously protecting and developing these resources. The total stock of wood in the Swedish forests, and stored carbon, has increased year by year, despite the rapidly increasing use of biomass for energy.