Växjö - A Sustainable City
Växjö, Sweden is a small city with fewer than 100,000 residents.
The city is on a path to becoming fossil fuel-free by 2030.
In focusing on the fossil fuel-free target, the city of Växjö prioritizes renewable energy, energy efficiency, district heating, cogeneration, green urban planning, and green building.
Växjö is also investing in low-emission fuel technologies for sustainable transit, in addition to city planning efforts that encourage cycling and walking.
The use of green urban planning in the development of the city has helped Växjö remain sustainable. The city has retained its natural setting (forests, parks, other green spaces, and lakes) which helps Växjö promote travel by bicycle and by foot. Växjö municipality is home to over 200 lakes.
Fossil Fuel-Free and Net Zero Goals in Växjö, Sweden
Växjö was the first city in the world to set a goal of becoming fossil fuel-free.
The city set its fossil fuel-free goal back in 1991, and the fossil fuel-free goal is set for the year 2030. Additionally, the entire country of Sweden plans to become the world's first country that's based on a fossil fuel-free economy.
Växjö has a net zero goal, as does the city's home country. Sweden has a goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2045 (a net zero goal that Växjö is sure to meet ahead of schedule). Växjö has already reduced the city's per-capita carbon dioxide emissions by over 50%.
Fossil fuel-free Växjö programs include:
- combined heat and power (CHP, also known as cogeneration) sourced from biomass - CHP produces both district heating and renewable energy for Växjö
- renewable energy, mostly from biomass, for power generation
- an increase in the use of electric, biofuel, and hybrid cars/ buses
- urban planning that reduces the need for vehicles, and encourages pedestrians and cyclists
- the use of advanced construction techniques (such as Passivhaus) to produce green buildings throughout the city
[see the Växjö fossil fuel-free declaration at the bottom of this article for more details]
Sustainable Transit in Växjö |
Växjö has a small population with around 3 people to every car. Reaching for a fossil-free society is easier because sustainable transit is the norm in Växjö.
Växjö has a 150km bike-path system and continues to maintain and expand the bicycle path network so that it remains fast, easy, convenient, and safe to cycle in Växjö.
Streets in the Växjö city center feature pedestrian and cycling-only car-free zones.
Växjö has a renewable fuel-powered bus fleet with buses that run on locally produced biogas, with biogas sourced from bioenergy programs such as waste-to-energy (W2E). By 2015, such measures as the W2E program and other bioenergy programs had already resulted in cutting Vaxjo's per-capita CO2 emissions by more than half compared to 1993 levels.
Vaxjo's path to becoming fossil fuel-free by 2030 includes sustainable public transit measures along with a focus on cyclists and pedestrians.
"Växjö is investing in sustainable travel on foot, by bicycle and by public transport. Our buses run on renewable fuel and we plan to lay cycle superhighways for quick and easy travel within the municipality. Växjö will lead the way in sustainable travel...
Växjö is part of a region and we need a simple and attractive regional infrastructure that provides accessibility without fossil fuels." [quote from - Växjö fossil fuel-free declaration]
Biomass and Cogeneration in Växjö
Most of Växjö's land consists of forests, lakes, parks, other green spaces, or farms. Biomass, biofuel, and biogas power the municipality of Växjö. Bioenergy is the primary power source for city buildings, residences, and public transit.
Växjö makes good use of its very unique geography, as over half of the city is covered by forest, to produce renewable energy. The city is recognized internationally as a city that leads the world in locally sourced renewable energy (mostly biomass energy).
Växjö's biomass production has a low environmental impact.
Biomass and biofuels, mostly sourced from forestry - wood chips, sawdust, bark, etc... (all forestry remnants) - represent the city's primary energy source. Växjö also sources agricultural waste, municipal waste, and other organic biomass waste streams in their bioenergetic production.
Over 90% of Växjö's heating, and around half of Växjö's electricity, is sourced from forestry by-products. Production of energy from biomass, and biofuel for cars/ buses, are also the main components of the fossil fuel-free plan.
Bioenergy represents the major form of renewable energy in Växjö.
Another part of the fossil-free plan includes the installation of solar panels for residences, municipal buildings, and industrial buildings. A relatively small share of energy is brought in from outside the city, with hydropower as the leading source of imported renewable energy.
However, Växjö still remains predominantly known for its production of locally-sourced, organic biomass energy.
Växjö turns waste into energy feedstocks, instead of wasting potentially beneficial organic materials. In Växjö, forestry by-products, and agricultural waste, are transformed into biomass energy, which is fuel for the city's large CHP plant, Sandvik.
Wood chips and other organic biomass feedstocks (produced by logging/ forestry, as well as other forestry/ agricultural organic waste) are the sources of fuel for Sandvik. The need for fossil fuels has dropped steadily in Växjö as biomass has taken over as the dominant low-carbon energy source for the city.
Sandvik uses biomass energy in the combined heat and power process to provide heat to the city of Växjö through district heating. Växjö sources a large share of its district heating from one biomass CHP plant (Sandvik), as well as a smaller share from a few smaller local district heating plants.
Växjö also uses electricity sourced from the Sandvik CHP power plant to power most of the buildings and industry in the city.
In addition to the goal of switching entirely to renewable energy, the majority of which is in the form of local cogeneration, Växjö is focused on expanding sustainable low-carbon transit.
Green Building in Växjö
Växjö has been constructing passive zero net energy commercial buildings, passive single-family residential homes, and even passive high-rise apartments.
Växjö meets the city's energy efficiency goals by doing everything from using cogeneration and district heating, to solar panels on public buildings, to the practice of timber construction.
Växjö's building practices increase energy efficiency, reducing the energy demand to the municipality. The construction of energy-efficient housing allows more resources to be devoted to the reduction of fossil fuel dependence.
Passive construction in Vaxjo's buildings and homes entails the use of all-timber to build the structures.
Additionally, in passive buildings (construction following Passivhaus standards), the buildings are air-tight and well-insulated, and the windows are double or triple-pane. These energy efficiency building measures ensure that all solar gains, heat from ovens and other appliances, human (and pet) activity, etc... are trapped inside while the cold outside air is blocked.
Passivhaus Växjö homes and high-rises also have ventilators (balanced heat- and moisture-recovery ventilation, usually in the attic) that also serve to transport the human-generated heat back into the buildings. Passive buildings are structured to recycle wastewater, which also contains valuable heat.
Residences not connected to the district heating network in Växjö are offered technology by the municipality to convert their home heating systems into renewable energy-based systems.
Newly developed energy-efficient buildings in Växjö implement a variety of modern efficiency standards, such as strictly tested airtightness levels, efficiency standards for ventilation, and smart metering of energy consumption.
There are energy efficiency training programs for the local builders provided by the municipality. The primary type of new construction in Växjö is wooden passive homes.
In fact, some new homes and buildings constructed in Växjö get enough energy from biomass and solar to actually be plus-energy buildings (generating more energy than the building consumes), similar to residences in Vauban, Germany.
For more on Passivhaus construction in Växjö, see the below article>>>
Växjö, Sweden - passive homes (and other sustainable construction practices in Vaxjo)
Here's a summary of ambitious sustainability priorities that Växjö has focused on in its quest to become fossil fuel-free:
Växjö has built a combined heat and power plant that produces fossil fuel free heating, cooling and electricity. Household organic waste is collected and made into biogas for buses and cars. The proportion of renewable fuels in the transport sector must increase.
We already know that it is technically possible to produce renewable vehicle fuel in our combined heat and power plant, but it is a major financial risk for one individual actor. Växjö urges the Swedish Government to form an economic structure that makes investments in the production of renewable energy profitable. Växjö urges European local authorities to switch to fossil fuel free energy systems.
Växjö is investing in sustainable travel on foot, by bicycle and by public transport. Our buses run on renewable fuel and we plan to lay cycle superhighways for quick and easy travel within the municipality. Växjö will lead the way in sustainable travel with the implementation of 52 identified measures by 2020.
Växjö is part of a region and we need a simple and attractive regional infrastructure that provides accessibility without fossil fuels. We need high-speed trains via Växjö to open up national and international travel possibilities. Växjö urges the Swedish Government to invest in double tracks on existing railways and in a high-speed track via Växjö and other regional centres. Växjö urges European local authorities to design towns in a way that promote sustainable transport systems.
Växjö builds in wood. We build passive houses, low-energy houses and energy plus houses in close collaboration between the municipality, private sector and academia.
Together with industry and other local authorities in Europe, Växjö is carrying out extensive and innovative energy efficiency improvements in its housing stock.
We are finding it difficult to make sufficiently progressive energy requirements due to the national building regulations being too weak and the law preventing municipalities from setting specific requirements.
Växjö also feels there is a lack of satisfactory methods and procedures to ensure compliance with the building regulations laid down by the Swedish National Board of Building, Planning and Housing (Boverket).
Växjö urges the Swedish Government to give Boverket the task of substantially sharpening the energy requirements of current building norms by prioritizing renewable district heating before electricity as a heating source and ensuring that energy requirements are actually complied with.
Växjö also urges the Swedish Government to once again let Swedish municipalities go first in line in making special environmental and energy demands for land sales. Växjö urges European local authorities to make long-term sustainable investments to reduce the energy consumption of buildings.
Växjö will also take responsibility for its own indirect climate impact, i.e. from our own consumption. A growing world population and limited natural resources demands a change in the raw material flows. We will switch from being a society that continuously seeks new resources, utilises them and then discards them, to a society based on sustainable cycles. Extending the life cycle of products, enhancing the quality of newly manufactured products and facilitating re-use saves enormously on resources.
Växjö will establish a knowledge transfer centre for circular economy, a reuse village and draw up local control measures for promoting circular economy. Växjö urges the Swedish Government to draw up control measures that favour circular economy. Växjö urges European local authorities to promote circular economy.
In Växjö we work transnationally to achieve our goal of becoming free from fossil fuels. Växjö has earned the reputation of being the Greenest City in Europe. Växjö leads the way in creating a fossil fuel free society and does it in broad collaboration.
To make it possible to achieve the goal, clear decisive leadership is required at national and international levels that lead to a more innovative private sector with great economic development potential. Växjö urges the Swedish Government to set a goal of becoming the world’s first fossil fuel free nation and to urge the European Commission to decide on binding climate goals for the European Union." [quote from - Växjö fossil fuel-free declaration]
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[Dan Braff is the founder of GCT –
Hello Dan Braff
It was very nice to get a chance to read about Vaxjo. I have been to the place several time to meet my sister there. At this moment I am taking Urban Planning at the California State Univeristy Pomona. I have started a meetup group called “building Communities” that focuses on the asthetic sense of the land and space then just graphic designing of buildings. This article is a perfect example of what I am trying to promote here in CA.
Mr. Dan Braff I do not know if that would be a good question to ask you but after several attempts trying to get information I gravited to finding information of Urban planning programs (students and teachers) from Sweden especially from Vaxjo. Can you help me contact students and faculty in this area I would love to invite them to my meetup group for my online events. I would also like to invite you become our member. It is a free meetup membership and free events. This way we can exchange related information and get to learn what is going on on the other part of the world.
You can check out the meetup by going to meetup.com and search for “Building Communities” by The Big Impact events.
I would like to spend time contacting academics in the Sustainability field for this, but I presently am short on extra time. I myself have recently been a Masters student here at Xavier University in their Sustainability and Urban Resilience program. I would like to explore your new Meetup platform once I have more free time, hopefully in a few weeks.