Solutions for Low-Carbon Building:


With ambitious goals of fossil-fuel-free operations and net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, Stockholm has become a frontrunner in sustainable urban development.

In the buildings sector, Stockholm touts one of the world’s largest open district heating networks, district-level electrification initiatives, and Passive House-level performance standards for municipal buildings, among its many accomplishments. Stockholm’s successes in these areas present a major opportunity for knowledge exchange between NYC and Sweden, given our closely aligned climate objectives.

Solutions for Low-Carbon Building: Stockholm (full report) 39mb

About the Delegation

Trip Itinerary

About the Report:

To identify potential areas of collaboration and share expertise, the Swedish Energy Agency and Smart City Sweden/IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute welcomed a delegation of leading US companies, assembled by Building Energy Exchange and the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority, to Stockholm in June of 2023. The mission focused on knowledge transfer and capacity building, connecting senior representatives from both countries’ top real estate, engineering, and utility firms to learn from one another and foster long-term cooperation and partnership.  This report summarizes our findings, identifying key areas of interest for the NYC market—and key differences—and proposes opportunities for future collaboration and exchange.






Public Policy and Energy System Decarbonization:

Ambitious national resource efficiency and climate policy goals have transformed the Swedish energy sector over 50 years, resulting in a nearly decarbonized electric grid and space heating system. As of 2023, natural gas infrastructure is minimal, as are fossil-fuel- based building systems. Sweden’s energy mix relies largely on hydropower and nuclear for electricity, while Stockholm’s district heating system relies on biomass and biogenic waste incineration.

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Policy Context and Climate Objectives

Open District Heating and Cooling:

Stockholm’s open district heating network is powered by 99% renewable and recovered energy. Stockholm Exergi, a utility owned in part by the City of Stockholm and a consortium of pension funds, operates the network. The open network incentivizes building-level heat recovery at every opportunity, as owners can sell excess heat back into the system at the market rate. Applications of heat sharing and recovery are increasing, with heat-intensive facilities like data centers and supermarkets selling waste heat back into the system. A successful carbon capture and storage (CCS) pilot, partially funded by the European Union (EU), is paving the way towards climate-positive operations.

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District Thermal Networks

Geothermal Energy:

Sweden has been a leader in geothermal energy since the oil crisis of the 1970s, with more than 500,000 shallow geothermal energy systems installed for space heating and domestic hot water. In Stockholm, geothermal energy is cited as a practical choice given the prevalence of low-temperature, water-based heating and cooling systems supplied by the district system, allowing for simple integration. Sustainability and economics are also driving factors: lower emissions, reduced exposure to district heating price fluctuations, and low maintenance costs. High upfront costs, while a challenge, were cited as feasible in part due to the ownership structure of involved real estate developers.

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Geothermal Energy

Real Estate Owner Structures:

Many of Sweden’s major real estate developers are wholly or partially owned by the Stockholm government and/or government pension funds. Long-term investment horizons of both government and pension funds, compounded by well-established public climate goals, enable decarbonization investments with longer paybacks than are generally accepted in US markets.

Centralized Controls and Demand Management:

Sweden was one of the first European countries to rollout smart-meters, with national-level regulations requiring monthly metering for small consumers and hourly metering for larger consumers by 2009. Moving beyond data transparency, advanced controls deployed by Stockholm Exergi are increasingly used for automated energy use optimization and demand management for thousands of residential customers. These services continue to grow, with Exergi filling the role of “decarbonization concierge,” not only ensuring system reliability and reducing costs for customers, but facilitating connections to solar, EV charging, and batteries.

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 Differences and Opportunities:

Sweden’s sustained aggressive climate policy, initiated by the oil crises of the 1970s, and deepened by growing concern around climate change in the 1990s, has fueled a transformation of their energy sector and built environment. In the building sector, sustained deployment of geothermal energy, renewable electricity, and low-carbon district heating, has crowded out fossil fuels for heating, driven by a federal- level carbon tax. With a population almost twice that of Sweden’s, robust natural gas infrastructure, and a largely fossil fuel-based electric grid, New York has a long way to go—but recent policy, utility, and industry developments are providing a glimpse into the state’s low-carbon future.

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Differences & Opportunities


Despite climate, utility, technical, and policy differences between Stockholm and New York, Swedish innovations in low-carbon building provide great insight and inspiration into future opportunities for building decarbonization in New York—from thermal energy networks, geothermal energy, and heat recovery to advanced controls.

Already, New York is looking to Stockholm, as well as other northern European cities, to inform climate policy and program objectives; local industry leaders are recognizing the promise of many Nordic technical solutions; and transnational real estate professionals are building effective collaborations resulting in innovative low-carbon outcomes. Though the path to building decarbonization is steep, with years of hard work ahead, Stockholm’s successes offer a glimpse into a cleaner, greener future for New York’s built environment.






read: Credits

Solutions for Low-Carbon Building: Stockholm (full report) 39mb