Powered by alternatives: Lessons from Sweden
Kristianstad may be famous as the home town of the Absolute Vodka but now it has lessons in ecology that might help change our future with natural fuels. About 10 years ago, this Swedish town decided that they would reduce and gradually wean away from being solely dependent on fossil fuels. And now it looks like they have achieved what they set out to do and even more remarkably, done it without resorting to the usual wind and sun energy alternatives.
With a population of 80,000, Kristianstad is essentially a farming community also dependent on food processing to bolster their economy. Both farming and food processing yield huge amounts of waste matter like food peels, oil and animal matter that can be biologically processed to produce gas that can be used for heating homes, for generating electricity as well as in a refined form used to power cars.
Long before concepts of climate change became fashionable, Sweden was among the first countries to levy taxes on emissions from fossil fuels. In a bid to avoid these new levies, Kristianstad started looking for alternatives.
Europe has plans in place to become more energy efficient. New European energy plans include cutting carbon emissions more effectively, using renewable energy sources and improving energy efficiency. But what Kristianstad has implemented isn't just about producing energy from renewable sources. Harnessing the power of this gas has meant reducing the use and dependence on fossil fuel by half besides reducing carbon emissions and creating jobs in the energy sector. Manure and other wastes that could otherwise be potential pollutant, if not carefully disposed off, are now components in an environmentally friendly gas. Officials say this has reduced heating costs and reduced yearly dependence on diesel or gas to run vehicles.
Making this gas energy a part of life hasn't been cheap. This has meant laying down new pipes and installing generators besides creating a centralized biomass heating system. Some amount of revenue is generated through the farms and factories that pay to dispose of their waste and then buy the gas. Most of the costs have been covered by the city and Swedish government grants.