Bioenergy from boreal forests: Swedish approach to sustainable wood use

Apr 2019

Report published in March 2019 by IRENA, Svebio and the Swedish Energy Agency

Bioenergy, most of it from forests, accounts for 3/8 of all the energy used in Sweden. Swedish forests have doubled in volume over the last century. They have therefore doubled their capacity to absorb carbon and to provide wood for energy and a variety of other uses. Active forest management has helped to expand Sweden’s forested areas and thereby boost the country’s wood and bioenergy resource base. Wood is typically harvested around every 60 to 100 years, allowing for faster-growing new trees to be planted, increasing forest mass. In this manner, the capacity of Swedish forests to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) and provide wood for energy and other uses has doubled over the last century. Actively managed and monitored forests are also more resistant to forest fires and infestations, reducing the risk of massive CO2 release from such catastrophes.

As this report highlights, wood energy potential could be further enhanced by collecting a larger share of logging residues. Just over half of Swedish forest fellings come in the form of roundwood from tree trunks, which are harvested for lumber, other wood products, pulp and paper. While processing residues are already converted to bioenergy, felling residues – such as tree stumps and “slash” from branches and small trees – could also provide a sustainable bioenergy source.

Among other findings:

  • Sustainable wood use from Swedish logging could rise seven-fold through collecting 70% of slash and 30% of stumps
  • Wood growth in Swedish forests each year is twice what it was a century ago – on about the same land area.
  • Every tonne of wood used in Swedish buildings avoids nearly three tonnes of CO2 emissions.

The full report is available at: