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Stockholm Exergi sets target to be "climate-positive" by 2025

In Sweden, the Board of Directors of energy utility Stockholm Exergi AB has decided on a new sustainability objective: the business will be climate positive by 2025. The new goal can make Stockholm the world's first climate-positive capital.
"We are investing in technologies that create negative emissions, also known as carbon sinks. We have plans for a large-scale biochar plant, and above all, we see the potential of BECCS", says Anders Egelrud, CEO of Stockholm Exergi.

In Sweden, the Board of Directors of energy utility Stockholm Exergi AB has decided on a new sustainability objective: the business will be climate positive by 2025. The new goal can make Stockholm the world’s first climate-positive capital. Anders Egelrud, CEO of Stockholm Exergi, in front of schematics for a full-scale bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) unit at Stockholm Exergi’s Värtan biomass-fired combined heat and power (CHP) plant (photo courtesy David Walegren).

Stockholm Exergi’s sustainability goals are to combine corporate social responsibility with business acumen. The long-term environmental goal has long been that district heating in Stockholm should be resource and climate-neutral until 2030, and that all major investments should lead to this goal.

Now that goal has been taken to a new level – the Board of Directors decided on June 15, 2020, that entire business is to be “climate-positive” as early as 2025.

We are investing in technologies that create negative emissions, also known as carbon sinks. We have plans for a large-scale biochar plant, and above all, we see the potential of BECCS. These technologies create new business opportunities at the same time as they would mean major negative emissions, said Anders Egelrud, CEO of Stockholm Exergi.

In order for the business to become climate positive, a continued goal-oriented effort is required to reduce fossil emissions and to develop and implement new technologies.

We have switched our operations to extract energy from biomass and from society’s residual waste, and to recycle energy from wastewater and data halls. And reducing emissions in that way, by phasing out fossil fuels, is absolutely central. Since there is some fossil plastic in Stockholm’s waste, we are in the process of building a sorting plant so that we can send more plastic for recycling. But in addition to reducing emissions, we also need to create ways to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere, said Anders Egelrud.

Värtan well-positioned for BECCS

The technical conditions for large-scale bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) at the biomass-fired combined heat and power (CHP) plant in Värtan are good. A BECCS test facility has been operational since December 2019.

Stockholm Exergi fascade

Supplying district heat, cooling, and electricity to the City of Stockholm, Stockholm Exergi’s Värtaverket combined heat and power (CHP) facility consists of several different production units. The last remaining coal-fired boiler in the KVV6 (CHP unit 6) block was officially closed in April 2020, at the end of the 2019/2020 operating season.

Capacity for storing carbon dioxide (CO2) can be in place already from 2024, through a collaboration with Norwegian players.

Given that policy instruments for BECCS proposed in the government’s Climate Policy Road Selection Report (SOU 2020: 4) are implemented expeditiously, and that Stockholm Exergi can receive such support, a BECCS plant in Värtan could be operational by 2025.

The goal is challenging, but we have a uniquely good location in Stockholm, said Anders Egelrud.

A positive fit for the city’s climate ambitions

Stockholm Exergi is jointly owned by Finland-headed energy major Fortum Oyj and the City of Stockholm. The company’s new sustainability target fits well into the capital’s climate ambitions.

Stockholm will be a world leader in achieving the Paris Agreement’s goal of reducing global warming by 2030. We now have the conditions to become the world’s first climate-positive city. By capturing and storing carbon dioxide, we can reach negative emissions, making us a city that occupies a leading position in sustainability issues, said Anna König Jerlmyr, financial mayor in Stockholm.

Fortum emphasizes the importance of having the political and economic “rules of the game” in place.

BECCS enables space both for society to make a switch in sectors where it is difficult to quickly change and the opportunity for Stockholm to become climate positive in 2025, but then policy also needs to quickly create the necessary regulations, said Per Langer, Division Manager for Fortum City Solutions.

Stockholm Exergi’s path to negative emissions include:

  • Phasing out of coal. In April 2020, the last coal-fired boiler was closed, without use during 2019/2020 winter season.
  • More efficient waste sorting. In 2020, a large sorting plant will be established at the Brista CHP, in collaboration with the waste company Sörab. This will lead to significant emissions reductions as large quantities of plastic can be sorted out and sent for recycling. A similar plant is also planned by Stockholm Vatten och Avfall at the Högdalen waste-to-energy (WtE) plant in Stockholm.
  • A large-scale biochar plant would contribute to district heating production and create large amounts of the soil improver biochar, which also forms a carbon sink.
  • A full-scale BECCS plant at Värtaverket would result in a regular carbon sink of 800 000 tonnes annually based on residual products from ecologically and socially sustainable forestry. This investment alone would mean that Stockholm Exergi’s operations will be climate positive, as the overall emissions of the business on the last row will be negative. Furthermore, the negative emissions, the so-called carbon sink, become larger the better the waste is sorted.

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