Renewable methane leading the way in the Swedish RES-T development

06.04.2015 08:13

Sweden is quantitatively the leading European country in utilization of renewable energy in transportation (RES-T). Although passing 10 % share of renewables in transportation energy consumption a few years ago and now rapidly approaching 20 % share are major landmarks of quantitative development, qualitative development has been even more important.

New study on the Swedish RES-T system by Ari Lampinen tells about exceptionally high environmental quality achieved there, when comparing to other EU Member States. It is the result of emphasizing waste based biofuels instead of energy crop based biofuels, gaseous fuels instead of liquid fuels, pure use of renewables instead of blending them with fossil fuels, and electricity production with low environmental risks. Emphasis on public and cargo transport instead of personal transport gives another positive contribution. This differs fundamentally from the EU wide situation. Low-blend food energy crop based liquid fuels in personal transportation dominate renewable energy consumption in the EU transport sector.

The study focuses on true RES-T market, i.e. not including low-blends, because low-blend fuels (blending biocomponents with gasoline and diesel oil) are not renewable fuels. They are fuels that meet fossil gasoline and diesel oil standards. They do not give incentives for developing vehicle technologies and distribution network. And they maintain crude oil dependency. Sweden is on track to reach the EU mandate of 10 % renewable share of transportation energy consumption by 2020 without taking low-blends into account.

There is high technical diversity in the Swedish RES-T sector regarding sustainable energy supplies and vehicles.

Among energy sources biowaste based biogas (BG) is the most important (see statistics graphs from 2013). It has been utilized in compressed form (CBG) since 1941 and in liquefied form (LBG) since 2010. Renewable methane supply was extended in 2014, when the first wood waste based synthetic biogas (SBG) production plant was taken online. 

Focus of renewable methane use is in heavy road transport.

Progress has been fastest in the national bus fleet. Between the years 2000-2013, the RES-T bus fleet grew from 400 to 4700 units. In 2013 RES-T buses represented 27 % of the whole registered bus fleet and 30 % of buses in commercial traffic. This success story is due to municipal policies, since municipalities have procured 4300 RES-T buses for public transport, representing 45 % of all buses in procured public transport. This has helped private sector to acquire another 400 RES-T buses for other services. About half of RES-T buses run on renewable methane.

Renewable methane is utilized a lot also in other types of commercial traffic (trucks, vans and cars) but E85 has the largest share among cars in personal use. However, the share of E85 is decreasing. Data of new registrations in 2013 (see graph on the right) show that technical diversity of RES-T cars is increasing.

Municipal policies have played a key role in the success story of high quality RES-T system. Municipalities have created markets for several sustainable RES-T technologies.

Biogas is the most obvious example of municipal opportunities, since municipalities control both the source of biogas, biowastes, and large amount of transport. Therefore, they can create both supply and demand locally. Municipalities are responsible for biowaste management and they can decide it to be used for traffic fuel production. They can also decide that their own vehicles, municipal buses and waste trucks will use the local fuel. It means that municipalities can create local isolated markets independently, even without involvement of private companies and even if those fuels are not used elsewhere. At first it was necessary that municipalities with their companies controlled the business, and in some municipalities it is still the case. But after markets had been created by several municipalities, private companies got involved and they control the business in some municipalities. And there are municipalities, where the business is controlled by public-private partnerships.




  • Lampinen Ari (2014) Role of Municipal Policy in Renewable Energy Use in Transportation in Sweden. Renewable Energy Law and Policy Review (RELP 2/2014) 5:179-190.
  • Lampinen Ari (2015) Quality of Renewable Energy Utilization in Transport in Sweden. Acta Academiae Stromstadiensis, No. XXIX, Aprilis MMXV, 55 p.