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Fossil fuel free Vaxjo
[Vaxjo, Sweden, a small city of less than 100,000 residents, is on a quest to become fossil-fuel free by 2030; by prioritizing green urban planning, green building practices, renewable energy, district heating, cogeneration, and by exploring low emission fuel technologies for sustainable transit.]
Renewable energy, energy efficiency, and green urban planning in Vaxjo, Sweden
Vaxjo, Sweden, was the first city in the world to set a goal of becoming fossil fuel free; the city did so back in 1991, and the goal is set for the year 2030. Additionally, Sweden plans to become the world's first country that's based on a fossil fuel free economy. Vaxjo not only is aiming to become fossil fuel free by 2030, but also has a goal of achieving carbon neutrality (net zero GHG emissions) by 2050; promising a complete switch to renewable energy on the path to both goals.
Renewable energy, energy efficiency, and urban planning, are three of several high priority methods the city has focused on to achieve a fossil fuel free Vaxjo. The fossil fuel free Vaxjo programs include: the use of biomass for district heating, renewable energy, mostly from biomass, for power generation, urban planning that reduces the need for cars, an increase in the use of electric and biofuel cars/ buses; and the use of advanced construction techniques to produce green building throughout the city.
Vaxjo has a small population (of under 100,000), with almost 3 people for every car, so the transformation to a fossil-free society might be relatively simple. The use of urban planning in the development of the city has helped Vaxjo remain very green; the city has retained its natural setting, forest, which helps the city promote cycling and walking. Vaxjo makes use of its very unique geography, as over half of the city is covered by forest, to produce renewable energy (mostly sourced from biomass). Vaxjo is recognized internationally as a city that leads the world in locally-sourced renewable energy (mostly in the form of biomass, with some solar and other RE sources contributing as well). Biomass and biofuels, mostly sourced from forestry, wood chips, sawdust, bark, and peat (all forestry remnants); as well as from agricultural waste - represent the major form of energy in Vaxjo.
In addition to switching entirely to renewable energy, mostly in the form of local cogeneration from a single biofuel-based cogeneration power plant, Vaxjo is focused on expanding sustainable low emissions transit. Vaxjo has a 150km bike-path system, and a bus fleet running on biogas from waste. By 2015, such measures had resulted in cutting the city's GHG emissions in half compared to 1993 levels; and by 2025, the city aims to be 70% CO2-free - on its path to becoming fossil-fuel free by 2030.
Biomass, biofuel, and biogas, powers the municipality of Vaxjo; city buildings, residences, and public transit. Biogas from Vaxjo's biomass power plant is processed into liquefied natural gas (LNG) or compressed natural gas (CNG) for public transportation. Low emission Vaxjo city buses run on biogas/ LNG/ / CNG/ biodiesel/ or are hybrid electric + biofuel. Vaxjo's biomass production has a low environmental impact,; making good use of waste from the city's primary industry; forestry. Production of energy from biomass, and biofuel for cars/ buses, are main components of the fossil-fuel free plan. Another part of the plan includes the installation of solar panels in homes, municipal buildings, and industry buildings. Vaxjo derives over 50% of its energy from local renewables. A share of renewable energy is brought in from outside the city, with hydropower as the leading source of imported energy. However, Vaxjo remains well known for its production of locally-sourced, organic biomass energy.
The municipality of Vaxjo ensures that forestry waste is transformed into biomass energy, which supplies about 40% of the electricity and an estimated 80% of heating for the city. Vaxjo sources most of its district heating from one biomass combined heat and power (cogeneration) plant. The city of Vaxjo also features a unique ecoBUDGET. Vaxjo's ecoBUDGET use the same model that decision makers use with fiscal resources, in managing natural resources. The ecoBUDGET has not only set the course for renewable energy programs, district heating, sustainable transit, waste management/ recycling, and conservation in Vaxjo; but also for cutting edge green building programs.
Sandvik II is the name for the power plant in Vaxjo. Sandvik II uses biomass to provide heat to the city of Vaxjo through district heating; as well as using electricity sourced from this same power plant through cogeneration (also known as combined heat and power) for most of the housing and industry in the city. Wood chips, bark, and peat, produced by logging, are the sources of fuel for the plant. The need for fossil fuels has dropped steadily as biomass has taken over as a dominant, reduced GHG emissions, energy source for the city.
Vaxjo meets the city's energy efficiency goals by doing everything from using solar panels in public buildings, to cogeneration and district heating, to the practice of timber construction. Vaxjo'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.
In order to reach the goal of carbon-neutrality by 2050, Vaxjo has been constructing passive zero-net energy commercial buildings, passive single family residence homes, and even passive high-rise apartments. Passive construction in Vaxjo's buildings and homes entails the use of all-wood to build the structures, the walls are thick and well-insulated, and the window are double- or triple-pane- so all heat from ovens, human (and pet) activity, other appliances, etc... is trapped inside while cold outside air is blocked, thus insuring maximum energy efficiency for heating. Vaxjo homes and high-rises also have ventilators (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 Vaxjo are offered technology by the municipality to convert their home heating systems into renewable energy-based systems. Newly developed energy efficient buildings in Vaxjo implement a variety of efficiency standards, such as strictly tested air tightness levels, efficiency standards for ventilation, smart metering of energy consumption, and there is even energy efficiency training for the local builders provided by the municipality. Wooden “passive” homes are the primary type of new construction in Vaxjo. These homes require very little energy for heating and use only the barest minimum in terms of energy consumption. In fact, some new homes and buildings constructed in Vaxjo get enough energy from biomass and solar to actually be plus-energy buildings (generating more energy than the building consumes), similar to Vauban, Germany.
Here' is a more detailed list of ambitious sustainability priorities that Vaxjo has focused on in its quest to become fossil-fuel free:
In the past 20 years the people of Växjö have almost halved their fossil carbon dioxide emissions. Växjö has already built a combined heat and power plant that produce fossil fuel free heating, cooling and electricity. Household organic waste are 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).
The City of Växjö, together with Linnaeus University and private actors, is prepared to lead the
way in ensuring that energy requirements are actually complied with.
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.
Collaboration and leadership. 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 and was one of the first
European local authorities to sign the Covenant of Mayors. 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."
For more on passive home construction in Vaxjo, see the below article.
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