Thursday, April 20, 2006

Stockholm on renewables...

So I had to do a quick round-trip to Stockholm this week to take care of some business and meet with a woman from the UN about our thesis work. It was a great overnight trip, and good to get a change of scenery from Karlskrona.

It was also a good first hand look at the bio-fuel infrastructure that we’ve been learning about here in Sweden. We rented a flexi-fuel care – a Volvo V50 – that looks, feels and drives like a normal car. The only difference is you can put regular gasoline in it or an ethanol blend. You can also mix the two together, so if you have half a tank and you fill up at a station that doesn’t have ethanol, it’s all good. Here's a picture of me filling up the rig:

The exciting thing about what they’ve got going here in Sweden is how fast it happened. We went to a clean vehicles conference back in the fall, put on by Per Carstedt, who later came to BTH and gave us a lecture about his work. What he’s done is pretty incredible. He’s worked with the diverse group of stakeholders involved in the “chicken and egg” problem of a major fuel switch – energy producers, filling stations, car makers, drivers and policy makers – to help create this transition. And it has happened incredibly fast.

Once the car makers knew there was a market, the consumers knew there were enough stations, the filling stations knew there was a supply, the producers knew there was a market, etc., etc…. the whole thing tipped. Now there are over 600 filling stations, there are parking and toll incentives for consumers that drive them, and car makers are cranking out flexi-fuel models.

It’s a small example of how a concerted effort, some cooperation, dialogue, and openness to change can make these seemingly impossible shifts happen. Stay going.