Demand soars for Swedish solar panel subsidies

Subsidies on offer to Swedes to help cover the cost of installing solar panels have proven more popular than government officials expected.

Demand soars for Swedish solar panel subsidies

A week after the the start of the programme, applications have come in requesting two times the amount of money set aside this for the programme this year.

Starting July 1st, Sweden launched a new set of economic supports to defray the cost of installing solar panels.

The plan allows for companies, organizations, and individuals to seek funds covering up to 60 percent of the investment cost associated with setting up the panels.

For 2009, the government allotted 50 million kronor ($6.3 million). For 2010 and 2011, an additional 50 million kronor per year will be set aside for the programme.

In the first week that Sweden’s county administrative boards started accepting applications for the funds, the Swedish Energy Agency (Energimyndigheten) considers the new programme a success.

Already more than 100 applications have been received requesting a total of 100 million kronor.

The agency’s Linus Palmblad thinks one explanation for why interest has been so high is that Swedes knew about the programme ahead of its launch.

“Previously there was support for solar cells on public buildings which expired at the turn of the year. I think that there were many who missed the last round and still had plans ready to go,” he told the TT news agency.

At the end of August, the Energy Agency will decide how the money will be distributed to the county administrative boards.

The subsidies can be used for work started on July 1st of this year and will be completed by December 31st, 2011.

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Sweden to stop local governments blocking wind parks in final stages

Sweden's government has proposed a new law which will remove local municipalities' power to block wind parks in the final stages of the planning process, as part of a four-point plan to speed up the expansion of wind power.

Sweden to stop local governments blocking wind parks in final stages

“We are doing this to meet the increased need for electricity which is going to come as a result of our green industrial revolution,” Strandhäll said at a press conference. 

“It is important to strengthen Sweden by rapidly breaking our dependence on fossil fuels, building out our energy production and restructuring our industry. The Swedish people should not be dependent on countries like Russia to drive their cars or warm their homes.”

“We are going to make sure that municipalities who say “yes” to wind power get increased benefits,” she added in a press statement. “In addition, we are going to increase the speed with which wind power is built far offshore, which can generally neither be seen or heard from land.” 

While municipalities will retain a veto over wind power projects on their territory under the proposed new law, they will have to take their decision earlier in the planning process to prevent wind power developers wasting time and effort obtaining approvals only for the local government to block projects at the final stags. 

“For the local area, it’s mostly about making sure that those who feel that new wind parks noticeably affect their living environment also feel that they see positive impacts on their surroundings as a result of their establishment,” Strandhäll said.  “That might be a new sports field, an improved community hall, or other measures that might make live easier and better in places where wind power is established.” 

According to a report from the Swedish Energy Agency, about half of the wind projects planned since 2014 have managed to get approval. But in recent years opposition has been growing, with the opposition Moderate, Swedish Democrats, and Christian Democrat parties increasingly opposing projects at a municipal level. 

Municipalities frequently block wind park projects right at the end of the planning process following grassroots local campaigns. 

The government a month ago sent a committee report, or remiss, to the Council on Legislation, asking them to develop a law which will limit municipal vetoes to the early stages of the planning process. 

At the same time, the government is launching two inquiries. 

The first will look into what incentives could be given to municipalities to encourage them to allow wind farms on their land, which will deliver its recommendations at the end of March next year. In March, Strandhäll said that municipalities which approve wind farm projects should be given economic incentives to encourage them to accept projects on their land. 

The second will look into how to give the government more power over the approvals process for wind projects under Sweden’s environmental code. This will deliver its recommendations at the end of June next year.