A Member of ICLEI and the Global 100% Renewable Energy Cities & Regions Network, Växjö, Sweden is leading the way in urban renewable energy strategies, and is on track to become a fossil fuel-free city by 2030. We got in touch with the mayor to find out more about the key to success in the local renewable energy transition.
Six months into her tenure as mayor, Anna Tenje is continuing to position Växjö as a leader in renewable energy, showing that global climate work starts at the local level. Växjö has already achieved 65 percent renewable energy overall – and heat and power is almost 100 percent renewable, thanks to the expansion of a district heating system that runs on forest biomass.
What sets Växjö apart is the political unity and cooperation on climate action within the city. Mayor Tenje is continuing a legacy of sustainability and renewable energy that began in the 1960s, sparked by the initiative of one single Växjö citizen. Växjö’s community efforts have built momentum ever since.
“From a political point of view, the idea of a fossil fuel-free Växjö is very solid,” the mayor explained. “I see no risk that that commitment will disappear.” This clear and consistent political and community-wide commitment is important. The city enjoys broad support from a variety of stakeholders who see eye-to-eye on the benefits of renewable energy – and who are willing to collaborate with the city on these efforts.
Collaboration with the national government of Sweden is also integral to Växjö’s renewable energy transition. The city has received financial support from the national government, but national-level involvement is also important in overcoming some built-in obstacles.
For instance, the transport system in Växjö poses a significant challenge to their renewable energy transition. The city has increased cycling and public transport infrastructure, but still, Mayor Tenje explains that fossil fuels still play a major role in the transport sector, which leaves Växjö looking towards technical developments and national legislation to help nudge city residents towards choosing cleaner, more sustainable transport options. “We cannot force citizens to use biogas or electric cars, but we can make sure that we have the right infrastructure available for those who choose to,” says the mayor.
National policies and support are an important part of the story if we want to increase the efficacy of local climate action, and Mayor Tenje sees how cities like Växjö can help shape more effective national policy: “Our role as a city is to identify obstacles and let the government know what needs to be changed nationally for a successful transition at the local level,” she explains.
As a member of the Global 100% Renewable Energy Cities and Regions Network, Växjö is eager to collaborate and exchange knowledge with others cities as it continues its transition. “At the same time that we are sharing our knowledge and experiences, we are also learning from other cities. This is something we want to continue,” she says. Mayor Tenje also urges other cities and regions to join the network: “Just do it. What is the alternative? Fossil energy is so 20th century. I believe in strong cooperation and strong networks. We need commitments at the local level and everyone can do something.”
Picture of a railway station in Växjö by Lars Aronsson (CC BY 3.0).