Earth, Wind and Fire

Svenska Dagbladet was full of energy this week. On Tuesday it was the atomic sort, with the news of increasing support for nuclear power, while Wednesday's edition reported that "Swedes want to invest more in solar energy".

In fact, both stories came from the same survey carried out by Gothenburg University, which also found that Sweden’s burgeoning wind power industry may be heading for stormy weather amidst increasing opposition from people living near the giant turbines.

46% of Swedes say they want to keep nuclear power, compared to 34% who say that it should be phased out. This is a marked change of opinion since the mid-90s, when, backed by two thirds of the population, the government decided – in principle – to close down all of Sweden’s nuclear power stations in favour of “an ecologically and economically sustainable, renewable energy source.”

Unfortunately they haven’t found one yet, and so far only one nuclear plant has been shut. The eleven which remain supply almost half of Sweden’s electricity.

Sören Holmberg, who is professor of political science at Gothenburg University, told Svenska Dagbladet that support for the long-term use of nuclear power is higher than ever before.

“An important factor is the price of electricity,” he said. “And when people weigh up the risks, they consider nuclear power to be safer now.”

The majority of Swedes believe that investment in oil and coal energy should be reduced and of the alternatives, solar and wind power are the most popular. But 10% fewer want more investment in wind energy than five years ago and there is increasing opposition.

“We don’t like these big, land-based wind turbines. They’re an irritation – ask anyone who lives near them,” said Hans Björneberg, of the ‘Protect Sweden’s Countryside’ movement. “We don’t have anything against wind power in general, though – we just don’t want the turbines built where they’re going to disturb people.”

“But we’re not the Taliban of the wind power issue,” he blustered.

Make of that what you will.