SGIN Opinion: How Sweden electrified its home heating — and what Canada could learn

May 4, 2023

In a recent CBC news article, it was reported that Sweden’s success with heat pumps can provide a useful model for Canada as it seeks to achieve its emissions reduction targets for buildings. The Canadian government has set a target of reducing building emissions by 37% below 2005 levels by 2030, and to achieve this goal, electrification of homes that burn fossil fuels, particularly for space and water heating, is essential. Heat pumps, an energy-efficient form of electric heating, are being promoted as a means of making home heating more affordable and combating climate change.

A street is lined with a green hedge and two-storey green, yellow, blue and white homes with red roofs.

Houses in the Bromma district in Stockholm, Sweden, are mostly heated with ground-source heat pumps. Single-family homes in Sweden have almost completely transitioned away from oil to electricity. (Jessica Gow/AFP/GettyImages)

However, despite new incentives, heat pumps only accounted for 6% of Canada’s residential heating as of 2021. Sweden’s experience with heat pumps provides a useful model for Canada, as positive testimonials and increased subsidies led to widespread adoption of the technology after 2000. However, Canada faces unique challenges, as it is primarily heated by gas rather than oil and has several provinces that produce oil and gas. Such energy transition in Sweden was supported by government policies and incentives and deliberate action to involve all relevant stakeholders, including the government, industry, and individuals.

Similarly, Canada can accelerate the transition to heat pumps and other decarbonization measures with establishing collaboration with stakeholders and bringing progressive policies and incentives to create a conducive ecosystem to achieve its emissions reduction targets and net zero goals.