Sweden has the fastest rate of urbanisation in Europe, and Stockholm is growing so quickly that all kinds of challenges need to be met. Its 1950s motorways are overcrowded and millions of people need to be supplied with clean water, clean heat and clean energy.
In the developing world, the solution has often been to build more homes on forest and farmland, but in 1995 the city of Stockholm decided instead to found the world’s first urban national park and protect its green spaces. Old industrial areas have been and are being redeveloped as efficient low-energy housing, and the city recently finished an extension to its tram routes. In 2016, a brand new commuter railway is due to open, connecting different parts of Stockholm cleanly and efficiently. National rail operator SJ even uses hydroelectric and wind power for its trains.
On the edge of Stockholm’s urban park, the new ‘eco-quarter’ of Norra Djurgårdsstaden, Stockholm Royal Seaport, is using an old gasworks to build thousands of eco-friendly homes complete with biogas produced from food waste, as well as providing electric car chargers and planning a new tram line. But the real innovation is behind the walls and under the ground.
Swedes use three times as much energy as the global average
Swedes use three times as much energy as the global average to combat the cold climate and power their high-tech society, but living in cities is potentially more energy-efficient too. Stockholm Royal Seaport is a test bed for a globally innovative smart energy grid in partnership with energy companies, universities and homebuilders.
In other parts of Sweden, urban innovation is making waves too. In Umeå, near the Arctic Circle, locally engineered electric buses are now an everyday sight. Using patented fast-charge technology they can service an entire city without wires, and will soon be standard.
The city of the future could look a lot like a Swedish city. The real challenge is building these state-of-the-art solutions quickly enough to keep up with the rapid growth of both Sweden’s and Europe’s urban populations.
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