Sweden’s export of renewable wind energy

Posted on March 5, 2013


The Energy Authority has announced that Sweden’s electricity generation during 2012 reached the highest ever level of gross production. It was 161.6 TWh which is 10% higher than in 2011. This high level of production meant that Sweden could export 19.6 TWh of electricity. If one compares electricity (that is exergy) with the heat value of oil and one uses the conversion factor used by BP (38%) then 1 TWh of electricity is equivalent to 2.63 TWh of oil. This means that our electricity exports were equivalent to 87 thousand barrels of oil per day averaged over all of 2012. Compared with Norway’s oil exports of millions of barrels per day it is not such a large amount. On the other hand we are importing 305 thousand barrels per day and the export is covering 25% of this.

It is interesting to note that Sweden’s exports of electricity correspond quite well with the production of electricity by wind turbines so that days of considerable wind are when we export most as you can see in the figure below. The exception was some days in February when we had severe cold in Sweden. In total, wind power produced 7.1 TWh of electricity during 2012 and since electricity exports correspond with generation by wind power we can justifiably say that wind power has become Sweden’s latest export commodity. Since Sweden needs to import oil it is good that we can export other energy products.

(Exports of electricity and wind power production during January-February 2012)

During 2012 our electricity production according to the Energy Authority was 161.6 TWh. Hydroelectric power represented 77.7 TWh (48%), nuclear energy increased during the year to 61.2 TWh (38%), fuel-based electricity production (mostly bio energy) 15.5 TWh (9.6%) and wind power 7.1 TWh (4.4%). Sweden has very little fossil based electricity.

During the coming years increasing wind power generation will mean increased exports of wind energy which, in reality, means that subsidized Swedish wind power is exported to other nations. One should compare the cost of the subsidies to the cost of the export income. If the subsidies are higher than the export income then we have created a new way to export money!

Having said this I nevertheless do not want to assert that we should stop investing in wind power. However, Swedish investment in wind power should be commensurate with the Swedish energy system. We should also be aware that, in 2012, there was a great deal of rain (which facilitates hydroelectricity generation). For Swedish consumers and industry, overproduction of electricity is good since it depresses prices. This means that continued investment in wind energy can be good news for consumers’ energy bills and, as a consumer, that is something that I have nothing against.

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