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New Swedish government could become more pro-renewables

Support by the green-leaning Centre Party could help moves to design an auction system for offshore wind:

Stefan Löfven’s election in the Swedish parliament today for a second stint as Prime Minister under a Social Democratic-Green minority cabinet is likely to further boost the renewables expansion in the Nordic country, and possibly bring it closer to a functioning offshore wind auctioning system.

At first sight, the end of a more than four-month political impasse in Stockholm after inconclusive elections in September seems to lead to a weak government.

Löfven was elected only thanks to the abstention of both the radical Left and the centre-right Centre and Liberal parties, which will move the government further to the right due to concessions the red-green coalition had to make to the centrist parties.

The latter had decided to support a Löfven minority government only to avoid the greater evil (in their eyes) of the far-right Sweden Democrats getting any influence in a government led by the now opposition Moderate Party.

Yet, if the prime minister were to move too far to the right in social policies, the Left has already threatened to topple him through a vote of no confidence.

The positive aspect for the renewables industry in this fragile government constellation is, however, that the Centre Party like the Greens is decidedly pro-renewables and will reject any moves to extend the operating life of Sweden’s nuclear power plants, or even build new ones.

To cement its influence on the government without officially being part of it, the Centre and Liberal Parties have signed a four-party agreement with Löfven’s Social Democrats and the Greens covering 73 policy areas.

The agreement is not very specific on renewable energies, but states it will be made easier and more profitable to invest in renewables for self-consumption.

That could help an already ongoing boom of large onshore wind developments in the North of the country that in great part provide power for heavy industries or data centres.

The government agreement also confirms a 2045 target for Sweden to no longer have any net emissions of greenhouse gases, and calls for a ban in sale of combustion engine cars by 2030.

With the explicit support of the two centrist parties, those policies will be much easier to sail through parliament.

“Overall, I think this is a favourable solution for renewables,” Charlotte Unger, chief executive of the Swedish wind energy association Svensk Vinenergi summed up when talking to Recharge.

Unger points out that the Centre Party despite of traditionally being part of Sweden’s centre-right alliance has many common policy ideas with the Greens. Both reject nuclear power, and both want offshore wind to play a greater role in the country’s energy supply.

Löfven’s government is currently in discussions with the European Commission in Brussels about ways to wave grid connection fees for offshore developers. The support of the Centre Party could help the prime minister become more active in bringing about a functioning auction system for wind at sea.

Zero-subsidy tenders (combined with waiving grid fees) like in the Netherlands might be a solution for offshore in Sweden to take off as those would be effective to allocate offshore zones to developers, Unger reckons.

Coincidentally, Sweden’s government-controlled utility Vattenfall last year has won a Dutch zero-subsidy tender for the 700MW Hollandse Kust south zones in the Dutch North Sea. And Vattenfall is also building the 605MW Kriegers Flak offshore wind farm in the Danish part of the Baltic Sea by 2021 – a perfect blue print for large-scale projects further north in the Swedish part of the Baltic.

Swedish politics has been held hostage for too long by a toxic discussion on how to handle the strengthened populists from the Sweden Democrats. It is time for prudent policies to top the agenda again. Renewables should be one of the first areas to achieve that.

Read the article at Rechargenews.com.