Ten years ago, the municipally-owned biogas plant outside the city of Jönköping was bleeding money and public opinion was hostile to continued production of biomethane for the city’s buses. “Local biomethane production is a nice idea, but the economic calculation does not add up” was the common understanding. Furthermore, knowledge of biomethane and biofertilizer as part of a circular economy was lacking, with little recognition of the impact on food production or organic farming. Moreover, renewable fuels were often pitted against each other. All these factors created a landscape where progress on biogas became stagnant.
In addition to low market appetite, there was no regional coordination or support, and opportunities for investment did not arise as in other regions in Sweden. To change this situation, a group of individuals from public organisations within Jönköping County joined forces with the aim of altering the narrative. Energikontor Norra Småland leads this work.
It began with learning from others in regional and national networks. The group imparted their new knowledge to politicians, to the county’s Climate Council, and wherever they could get an audience. They also contributed to a national symbol for biogas, which became distributed across decals on vehicles, signs, trash bins, and so on. Notably, there was even a placard picturing Vladimir Putin and a local farmer patting a cow with the question: “Who would you rather give your money to?”. While edgy back then, today we can say that it aged well; the symbol created conversations that spread awareness of biogas solutions.
Meanwhile, two important decisions had to be taken: what Jönköping municipality would do with its biogas plant, and how the county’s upcoming public transport procurement would be designed.
Energikontor Norra Småland was commissioned to explore how the public sector could create conditions for organisations to want to invest in biogas, which would in turn provide incentives for increased production. A political steering group oversaw the work and chose the proposal for an agreement between all 13 Jönköping municipalities and the region itself. The agreement includes seven commitments including public procurement demands, guidelines for organic waste management, and both production and market targets. Now, four years after the biogas agreement was approved, both the production and market targets have been achieved by a great margin. Eight additional filling stations have been built, there are far more heavy vehicles, and a new privately-owned biogas plant has replaced the old one outside the city. This year, we celebrate that Jönköping County had the largest percentage increase in biogas production in all of Sweden (41%). The calculation adds up.
This best practice is issued from our publication “Sustainable Regions in Action 2023”. Find out more by clicking here to discover many more best practices from FEDARENE members as well as an overview of our activities.