City of Sustainability and Renewable Energy

Amazing Malmö, Sweden Puts Us All To Shame

Malmö is a municipality of 280,000 inhabitants located in Southern Sweden. Third largest city in Sweden, Malmö developed from a garrison town in the late Middle Ages into a shipping and transportation town, then into an industrial city, and today is an expansive big city with higher education facilities. Even today, blocks of the city have a Middle Ages appearance, especially with its abundance of parks and other recreational areas around the canals, beaches and harbor.

But it’s not the Middle Age aesthetic that lands it on this list. Rather, it’s Malmö’s innovative use of renewable resources and its goal to become a leading eco-city.

Sweden is a leader in green electricity solutionsmost of the country’s electricity comes from nuclear and hydropower. Cities such as Malmö are contributing to the greening of Sweden with plans to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent between 2008 and 2012, far exceeding the 5 percent goal set by the Kyoto Protocol.

Moreover, Malmö aims to have the entire municipality running on 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.

To help meet this aggressive target, systemic and lifestyle changes have occurred as neighborhoods across Malmö are transforming into sustainable, eco-friendly enclaves; of particular note are the areas of Western Harbor, Sege Park and Augustenborg.

What systemic and lifestyle changes?

  • Low-energy schools and houses that are so well insulated that body heat keeps them warm.
  • 96% recycling rate; what cannot be reused is burned in a waste-to-energy facility for district heating.
  • Buses run on biogas.
  • Vacuum garbage removal system.
  • Green Roofs.
  • Open storm water management.
  • Organic gardening in the middle of the city.
  • Sensors on traffic lights detect bicycles and adjust for them.
  • It is a “fair trade” city
  • The schools serve organic food.

What neighborhoods across Malmö are transforming?

Western Harbor, a former shipyard now densely urban, runs on 100-percent renewable energy from sun, wind and hydropower, as well as biofuels generated from organic waste. Its buildings are constructed with sustainable materials and designed to be energy efficient, and its streets are pedestrian and cycle friendly — 40 percent of commuters and 30 percent of all travelers go by bike. The aim was for the district to be an internationally leading example of environmental adaptation of a densely built urban environment.

Additionally, the restoration of the area of Sege Park, another eco-friendly transformation, will power the neighborhood with green energy sources including photovoltaics (solar electricity), wind power and biofuels.

Augustenborg, a district that’s been going green over the past decade, is known for its green roofing — botanical roof gardens that reduce runoff and add insulation and vegetation to an urban neighborhood. Augustenborg is also home to the world’s first emissions-free electric street trains, as well as more than a dozen recycling houses processing about 70 percent of collected waste.


The driving force in Malmö’s development is towards environmental sustainability. The metropolitan area is exclusively provided with energy from locally produced renewable sources.

  • Sun, wind and water form the basis for energy production together with biogas produced from organic waste from the district in biogas digesters.
  • Buildings are designed to have a low energy demand and the area is planned to minimize future transport needs and car dependency.
  • Cycle traffic is the most important element in the area’s transport system.
  • The district is built with the aim of containing a diverse range of natural life using plant beds, foliage on walls, green roofs, water surfaces in ponds and large trees and bushes.

Photovoltaic Systems (PV) (Solar)

  • Malmö is the city with the largest area of PV installations in Sweden.
  • Since 2001 the municipality has been encouraging PV, the work has included installation of several large PV plants on public buildings.
  • A total of 15 PV-plants have been installed on official buildings like schools, museums and hospitals.
  • The PV plants are installed on existing buildings and have a total area of 3400 m2 and a peak power of 500 kW.

The city of Malmö is making investments in solar energy to strengthen and market the environmental profile of the city. It is also considered likely that rising energy prices will make PV profitable in the future. An investment in solar energy is one step on the way to reduce CO2 — emissions and future energy costs and to become more self-sufficient in energy.

What makes Sweden so different, that they can reinvent their industrial cities, build properly, deal with their waste and use renewable energy?

Why does Malmö have the political will, money and smarts to do this kind of thing when we can’t?


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