Peat in Sweden

In Western Europe, the extent of Sweden’s peatlands (66 000 km2 with a peat layer thicker than 30 cm) is second only to Finland’s: the deposits are distributed throughout the country, being particularly extensive in the far north.

The use of peat as a household fuel has never been of much significance in Sweden. Production of peat for industrial energy use began during the 19th century and, after reaching a peak level during World War II, declined to virtually zero by 1970. Use of peat as a fuel for power stations and district heating plants started in the mid-1980s and now constitutes by far the greater part of consumption. In 2007, CHP plants accounted for 73% of total consumption, heat plants for 23% and industrial users for the remainder.

Sweden’s reliance on peat as a fuel is considerably lower than that of Finland or Ireland, and moreover it imports about a third of its requirements, chiefly from Belarus, Latvia and Estonia. The Swedish Peat Producers Association forecasts that over the longer term peat imports will tend to decrease, as the Baltic States will need to increase their use of indigenous fuels in the face of rising natural gas prices, particularly following the commissioning of the North Stream pipeline between Russia and Germany. The Association considers that Sweden needs to produce more of its own fuel peat, but reports that there are problems in obtaining licences, on account of a resistance to peat production. It states that its biggest problem is achieving greater public acceptance of peat as a fuel. The Government’s energy and climate policy (February 2009) points out that ‘under certain conditions and to a limited extent, peat can be used with a positive net climate impact’. It therefore considers that Sweden should take action to ensure that this point is taken into account by the IPCC and in the EU’s regulatory framework.