Fossil fuel free town thanks to biogas

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Kristianstad, a town in Sweden with a population of around 80,000, tends to be known more for its production of Absolut Vodka. But it may now become known for something else – something in addition to vodka that keeps you warm in the winter.

When the city vowed a decade ago to wean itself from fossil fuels, it was a lofty aspiration, and sounded more like utopia. A bit like zero deaths from traffic accidents or the elimination of childhood obesity.

Kristianstad has been using waste products to produce the heating for the town and surrounding area. The area is a region that serves as a hub for farming and food processing, and thus has a wide variety of waste scraps to choose from. The city generates energy from a motley assortment of ingredients like potato peels, manure, used cooking oil, stale cookies and pig intestines. This process involves converting the waste into biogas, and then burning the gas to produce heat and electricity, or refining it, for fuel for cars.

The city and surrounding county, with a population of 80,000, however, essentially use no oil, natural gas or coal to heat homes and businesses, even during the long frigid winters. It is a complete reversal from 20 years ago, when all of their heat came from fossil fuels. That means that Kristianstad has nearly arrived at its goal.

The city of Kristianstad should be an example to us all and is proof that it can be done, that a city can run almost everything on renewable power – in this cage on biogas – and this without even having to change things.

The excuse that is always again and again given in Britain, for example, that it cannot be done, or cannot be done in this or that place in the UK, falls down with the success of Kristianstad's biogas usage.

Time we all took a closer look at what is out there...

© 2011