Sweden climate resilience policy indicator

Source(s)
International Energy Agency

Country summary

  • From 1961-1990 (the reference period) to 1991-2016, Sweden’s annual average temperature rose 1°C. Its temperature is projected to continue rising and could be 2‑7°C higher by the end of the century than it was during 1961-1990. Extreme heat events are becoming more common and are expected to happen even more frequently in the future. Higher temperatures are reducing energy needs for heating but increasing power demand for cooling in the summer.
  •  Precipitation has increased throughout the country in the last 30 years, particularly during the summer. Compared with 1961-1990, average annual precipitation is projected to be as much as 40% higher in 2071-2100, and the consequent increase in runoff could boost Swedish hydropower generation. Precipitation patterns are expected to become more extreme and heighten the risk of flooding, although droughts could also become more common in some parts of the country. So, while these precipitation changes could raise hydropower generation potential in northern Sweden, they could also create dam safety challenges.
  • Sweden’s 2018 National Strategy for Climate Change Adaptation has a section dedicated to climate impacts in the energy sector, and the sectoral energy adaptation plan developed by the Swedish Energy Agency offers concrete actions to improve climate resilience. Energy sector climate resilience is also addressed briefly in the integrated National Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030, although not as thoroughly as in the adaptation policies. 

Climate hazard assessment

Temperature

Aside from geographical and seasonal variations, Sweden’s average annual temperature in 1991-2016 was 1°C higher than in 1961-1990. The warming rate was twice as high for northern Sweden during the winter, while the average autumn temperature in southwestern Sweden did not change. The rise in temperature has also been characterised by a strong increase in interannual variability. While the winter of 2007/08 was the warmest on record, the following two winters were the coldest since the 1980s.

With Sweden’s annual average temperature expected to increase 2‑7°C by the end of the century,1 the country’s warming rate will surpass the global average. Increases in winter temperatures (2‑9°C) are expected to be stronger than for other seasons, and summers show the smallest increase (1-6°C). Furthermore, the temperature is anticipated to rise more quickly in the north than the south as snow cover recedes. Although heatwaves2 are not common in Sweden, the number of consecutive high-temperature days in the summer for the southern part of the country was higher in 1991-2020 than in 1961-1990. Rising temperatures are therefore projected to increase the frequency of heatwaves.

Unsurprisingly, Sweden’s rising temperature has also decreased the number of heating degree days (HDDs) and expanded cooling degree days (CDDs), reducing heating demand for buildings. The average yearly heating requirement for 1990-2012 was therefore lower than for the reference period (1965-1995), with the exceptions of 1996 and 2010. With continued warming, Sweden’s heating demand could be as much as 37% lower in the 2080s than in 1961-1990. Although a greater number of CDDs is expected to boost electricity demand in the summer, peak demand would still occur in the winter. Additionally, an increase in the temperature of cooling water could limit thermal power plants’ electricity generation potential.

Precipitation

Precipitation has increased throughout Sweden in the past 30 years, particularly in the summer. Annual maximum daily precipitation in 1991-2013 was higher than in 1961-1990 for most of the country. Precipitation levels vary significantly across Sweden, the east coast being the driest (400 mm per year) and the mountains near the Norwegian border being the wettest (1 500-2 000 mm per year).

Compared with 1961-1990, average annual precipitation at the end of this century is projected to be 20-60% higher, depending on the scenario. Precipitation is expected to increase in northern Sweden during the summer while the south experiences a decrease. Consequently, ground and surface water runoff in 2071-2100 is expected to be 5‑25% greater than in 1961-1990, although seasonal and regional variations remain high.

In addition, torrential rains (above 40 mm per day) are expected to increase in both frequency and intensity throughout the 21st century, with marked regional differences. During the summer, heavy precipitation events could be 10-15% more intense in 2071-2100 than they were in 1961-1990. This could increase the risk of floods, particularly in southern and northwestern Sweden.

Depending on the conditions of Sweden’s environmental permits, higher precipitation and runoff could boost Swedish hydropower production, especially in the north where most hydroelectric dams are situated. However, according to Sweden’s Seventh National Communication on Climate Change, the increase in extreme inflows could also create dam safety challenges.

At the same time, climate projections also indicate that droughts could become more common in southern Sweden around the lakes of Vänern, even though the region has experienced relatively few droughts in past decades. The drier climate may raise the risk of wildfires, which could damage forests and infrastructure considerably.

Tropical cyclones and storms

Historical changes in Sweden’s wind patterns reveal no significant trends, and climate models do not clearly indicate future developments. Nevertheless, storms are already impacting Sweden’s energy supply by damaging electricity distribution infrastructure.3 In January 2015, storm Egon’s wind speeds exceeding 32 m/s toppled trees and branches onto electricity transmission and distribution lines, cutting power to 70 000 households. Then in November of the same year, the storm Gorm swept through the southern part of the country, leaving 35 000 homes without electricity.

Policy readiness for climate resilience

The Swedish government’s 2018 National Strategy for Climate Change Adaptation has a section dedicated to climate impacts affecting the energy sector. This national strategy is based on the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute’s 2015 assessment of how climate change can affect energy and water supply systems, with sections on energy supply, heating and cooling demand, and dam safety.

A set of regional plans complements the national strategy identifying specific measures for climate resilience. All of Sweden’s 21 county administrative boards developed regional adaptation plans in 2014. A 2018 ordinance requires that all county administrative boards and 32 national authorities develop action plans to carry out climate and vulnerability analyses, develop goals and implement measures for climate adaptation, and follow up on their goals by updating the plan at least every five years according to each authority’s area of responsibility. These plans, which cover the whole of Sweden, propose nearly 800 actions.

Among the national authorities in charge, the Swedish Energy Agency addressed energy sector climate adaptation in a 2018 report that identifies concrete actions. Its main measures are: development of knowledge support through a National Knowledge Centre for Climate Change Adaptation to assist all stakeholders in their climate adaptation work; better integration of climate adaptation into regular operations, for example by co‑ordinating work on climate change adaptation among national boards; development of local energy plans to address climate change effects on the energy supply; and stricter regulation of district heating/cooling.

In addition to these climate policies, the integrated National Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030,  based largely on the Climate Policy Framework (2017), briefly mentions ongoing activities to improve energy system climate resilience, although it does not propose additional measures for climate resilience in the energy sector. Similarly, the 2016 Framework Agreement on Energy Policy refers to energy sector ecological sustainability.

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