While Sweden is a district heating giant, Canada is lagging far behind in the area. But as more and more countries are refusing to accept exported waste, Canada is now starting to look at energy recovery from waste as an important step before sending it to a landfill.
In Sweden today the market share of district heating in homes and commercial properties is more than 50 percent. It accounts for 80 percent of home heating alone. The district heating sector is so advanced that we are importing waste from other countries to meet the capacity needs of our district heating plants.
Around the country, district heating is also helping us reach ambitious local sustainability goals. One example is Växjö municipality which now only uses 0.4 percent fossil fuels and aims to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2020. An important factor is that district heating primarily uses forest residues after felling, which would otherwise go to waste.
The situation in Sweden – nationally and locally – is, however, different from many other countries like Canada, despite Canada’s large forest resources and an advanced waste collection system. The fact is that Canada is only turning 3 percent of its household waste into district heating (statistics from 2006, the last year from which they are available).
But now there are signs that Canada is looking into district heating as a good way to achieve its climate goals and avoid landfill growth. An important aspect in this context is that countries such as China have banned waste imports, and Canada, the USA and many other former exporters of waste now need to take a closer look at how to deal with their waste themselves.