Rather than using oil, gas and electric furnaces, the city of 60,000 people (and its surrounding 12-town region, home to another 250,000) has switched to community “district heat”. This heat is produced at plants that burn sawdust and wood waste from timber companies. Hydropower, nuclear power and windmills provide more than 90% of the region’s electricity.
The city’s publicly owned cars and buses – and a growing share of its private and business vehicles — run on biogas made from waste wood and chicken manure, or an 85%-ethanol blend from Brazil.
Kalmar’s achievement came about through a combination of political will and creativity. “The technological part is possible,” said Jonas Lohnn, a city commissioner. “The bigger task is the cultural change, taking on the way of thinking.”
Sweden has been looking for ways to decrease its dependence on fossil fuels since the oil price shocks of the 1970s. Today, climate-change concerns are influencing the switch. By 2030, officials say, Kalmar plans to have no net use of fossil fuels, with any remnant use of gas, diesel or oil offset by exports of excess power generation from renewable sources.
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