Power for the people
Learning lessons from a green energy project in Sweden that includes some impressive electrical innovations
During the past 100 years, Sweden has built one of the most energy efficient systems in the world, with 98% carbon-free electricity generation and district heating covering 50% of all heating, according to statistics from the organisation Swedenergy.
This well developed district heating network enables us to utilise energy resources that would otherwise be wasted, such as waste heat from industry and energy from the recycling of waste.
In Sweden, heating is included in the rent for the majority of tenants, meaning that Swedish housing companies have strong incentives to invest in energy efficient measures. It also means that ‘heat or eat’ isn’t a big issue for tenants in Sweden, and instead the focus is more on bills for devices and lighting.
When it comes to heating Botkyrkabyggen’s properties, 80.7% of heating comes from district heating networks. The rest is electric heating and for that we have agreements that only allow electricity from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydropower.
The district heating that Botkyrkabyggen buys still has about 1% fossil share, which comes from fossil fuel and fossil material in the waste burned in the district heating plant. However, we’re currently having a dialogue with the local district heating company that they must reduce the proportion of fossil fuels in their plant.
We’re playing our part
Botkyrkabyggen has its own wind turbine that produced 6.1GWh in 2021. This is located in a separate area, which means we can contribute clean energy to a part of Sweden that doesn’t have the same opportunities to buy and use fossil-free energy as we have. It’s also a good source of income, bringing in around £333,300 in 2021.
In addition to the wind turbine, we also have solar panels, with 130 panels located on the roofs of four of our buildings. Their electricity production was 32MWh in 2021.
At present, 72 of our 126 charging stations for electrical vehicles (EVs) are in operation for tenants and guest parking. Our company fleet will soon be fully replaced with EVs and we are demanding our contractors do the same through our procurement processes. The larger their proportion of fossil-free fleet vehicles, the more points they receive in the procurement process. It is a way for us to use our position as a big public body to make a change on a wider scale.
Many years of energy efficiency
Energy efficiency is urgent in many countries right now, partly due to the consequences of the war in Ukraine, but it is something we have worked with for many years and will continue to do so. In the last 15 years, Botkyrkabyggen has lowered its total energy consumption by 27%, from 163 kWh/m² to 126. We measure this in kilowatt hours to reflect the change in behaviour and smarter energy consumption, rather than the change in carbon emissions.
We act on the following three principles:
The energy delivered to us must be clean
The system/network has to support energy efficiency
We need to raise awareness and understanding among individuals to support behavioural change.
Some examples of measures that we have taken are the installation of heat pumps and active choices of energy-saving products such as LED light sources, energy-rated appliances and water-saving mixers. We’ve also made adjustments to our central systems for ventilation, heating and replacement of windows and renovation of facades for a fabric-first approach.
At present we are running a project with artificial intelligence (AI) to optimise four properties’ need for district heating. This is done through advanced forecast control with AI that measures temperature and humidity in each apartment.
Through data from the sensors in the flat, we precede weather and can parry outgoing heat in the buildings before the need arises and thus optimise heat consumption. This is reducing the purchased energy for heating. For example, one of our properties used 26.5% less district heating during winter, which reduced costs by approximately £12,436.
We also have a project with hybrid panels for solar power that generate both electricity and heat. And we are continuing evaluation and testing of battery storage to ensure that the electricity and heating needs are connected to these panels.
We’re part of a bigger picture
Botkyrkabyggen is already doing a lot. But we are not satisfied and one way to do better is to be part of something bigger.
For example, we have joined a national climate initiative for affordable housing companies with two overall goals:
A fossil-free public utility by 2030
A 30% lower energy use by 2030, calculated from the year 2007.
Many housing companies are a part of this, which has a positive impact.
For example, electricians in Sweden get a bigger market of customers who not only demand solutions for energy efficiency but also make it possible to upscale such businesses.
For us, it is clear that working for green homes is tightly connected to strong finances. One has to be aware of what is a good move and what is not.
In Botkyrkabyggen’s case, we have doubled our property values since 2017 by making sustainable choices. The sustainable business is the only business in the future. And the future is here.
About the author
CHARLOTTA LUNDSTRÖM Press Officer, Botkyrkabyggen
WATCH OUR WEBINAR
Botkyrkabyggen hosted a webinar at the Green Home Festival in August, outlining exactly how it uses renewable technology to improve energy efficiency and deliver fossil-free environmental sustainability. Watch it now at bit.ly/ghf_sweden