SWEDEN -- Klippan, Arvidsjaur, Piteå, Malå, Vara, Öland, Gotland , Tierp, Torsås, Enköping, Skurup, Bräcke, Sjöbo, Luleå.
What unites these localities in our long nation? Yes, wind power opposition. Sometimes it's the residents who protest, but all the more frequently even the municipalities themselves resist, and say no to planned wind power construction.
Earlier this spring, Tingsryd municipality halted, for the time being, plans for a wind power station south of Växjö. In Klippan, the Conservative politicians put the brakes on. In the north, in Ragunda and Strömsund, the municipality, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, a Sami village [translator note: Sami are Laplanders; many make a living by raising reindeer], and several private individuals joined to block a planned wind power park consisting of 450 turbines. There are protests from Lomma [in south Sweden] to Härjedalen [in north Sweden]. And in Hylte, located in the Center Party stronghold of Halland Province [on the west coast], it is forecast that wind power will be the hottest issue in the coming Parliamentary elections. Here, the Social-Democratic and Conservative parties take a cautious line, while the Center Party municipal councilor is leading the opposition.
Personally, I have nothing against wind turbines, even if I sometimes think that just a little bit of Skåne landscape views can be left free of them. [Translator note: Skåne is Sweden's southernmost province.] But the examples noted above should be respected and listened to. Everyone from land-owners and farmers to eco-tourism associations and ornithologists are raising their voices against planned wind power construction. This is seldom reported in the national media, but a quick look into local media clearly shows that we truly have a lively debate in the countryside. There is plenty of worry -- about home values, nature conservancy, bird life, tourism - but the national government turns deaf ears to the anxiety.
In February, ten municipalities in Västerbotten [a northern province] demanded more economic compensation from the national government. Ola Alterå, of the Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications, said that this was out of the question, but he offered to discuss the positive sides of wind development. One need not agree that the municipalities should get more money, but Alterå's reply certainly leaves much lacking in communication.
Recently Andreas Carlgren, Minister of Environment, gave notice that the municipalities' right of veto could be reduced since municipalities "abuse it".
"Occasional local opinion" should not "determine the future of wind power construction," Carlgren said, and he outlined a counter-strategy. "For example, if a municipality does not give its consent within ten weeks, then this will be viewed as a silent approval." (Quoted in Dagens Nyheter, Mar. 17, 2010).
That the government takes off its silk gloves and instead gives firm directions to municipalities which we generally call self-governing would be understandable if we knew the aim were to secure energy requirements for the public. But this is not the case here.
Maud Olofsson, Minister of Enterprise and Energy [note: she Center Party leader and is also Deputy Prime Minister], promises that 2,000 new wind turbines will be built within ten years (Dagens Nyheter, Feb. 3, 2010). This may sounds like a lot but it's not much in reality. Wind power's share of Sweden's total net production of electricity was 1.9 percent last year. Two thousand new wind turbines by year 2020 will, of course increase that percentage, but we are still talking of a negligible amount.
Unfortunately, the Government can move like a steam roller and anger its Conservative-Center-Liberal voters as much as it wants in this question. There are few ways out. The Red-Green opposition is hardly any alternative for the groups who protest, whether they be ornithologists or farmers.
Is it wise for a demonstration of power from the top - from the party that usually champions the value of local home rule? There is a risk that the Alliance is making its bed very badly.
Sanna Rayman is an editorial writer for Svenska Dagbladet.
Translator's notes: Svenska Dagbladet, Stockholm, is Sweden's second largest morning daily. The paper is supports the current coalition government, known as the Alliance, and headed by the Conservative Party. Other parties in the Alliance are Center (originally the farmers' party -- and very much environmentalist and anti-nuclear), Liberal, and Christian-Democrat. The opposition group is led by the Social Democrats (who had held power for over 40 years, with a few exceptions in the 1970s and recently), joined by the Green Party and Left (former Communist). Sweden's electric power is supplied approximately 50 percent by nuclear and 50 percent by hydro.
Windaction.org wishes to thank Mr. Robert Skole for providing us with the Swedish to English translation as well as background information on the politics of Sweden.