From October 1, 2021, Swedish fuel retailers must stick eco-labels to all pumps in larger fuel stations, showing the climate intensity and origin of the fuel. Eco-labels are now present at around 70 percent of all fuel stations in Sweden, according to a new evaluation by the Green Motorists. However, eco-labels are present at only 2 percent of the charging stations.
The introduction of eco-labels on fuel pumps is a step forward for consumer power. A new line of products is now subject to demands to disclose sustainability-related information at the point of sale. Sweden is the first country to take this step.
The information declared on the label include the climate intensity of the fuel (well-to-wheels),the renewable share, and the most important raw materials. The labels refer to a web page where more comprehensive sustainability information is given, including the countries of origin of the raw materials.
The Swedish Association of Green Motorists has got confirmation that there are eco-labels in 1 705 fuel stations. We estimate that they are present in 200 – 400 stations more among the approximately 2 900 fuel stations in Sweden.
Eco-labels are compulsory at fuel stations selling more than 1 500 m3 of fluid fuel per year. Nevertheless, most large retailers have, for simplicity, chosen to label all their stations, regardless size. Several smaller retailers specialising in renewable fuels such as biomethane or biodiesel have chosen to do the same.
The Green Motorists are aware of eco-labels on 57 of Sweden’s about 2 600 public charging stations for cars. The reason for the small penetration is that eco-labels are compulsory only on charging points run by traditional fuel companies.
– Considering the rapid electrification, the eco-label bill is outdated even though it just came into force, says Per Östborn, campaign manager at the Green Motorists. We suggest compulsory eco-labels on all high power charging points.
The sustainability information disclosed on the first eco-labels derives from the sales of the retailers in 2020. That year, the energy share of electricity among the fuels in Swedish road transport was 0,5 percent. This share is expected to rise sharply, since the share of electric cars among cars sold in Sweden rose to 18 percent in 2021, and the share of plug-in hybrids reached 24 percent.
In 2020, 23 energy percent of all fuels used for road transport in Sweden were biofuels. Among these, renewable diesel HVO and FAME dominate, followed by biomethane and bioethanol. The biomethane is produced mostly from local waste and residues, but all in all only 12 percent of the biofuels were made of domestic raw materials, despite a generous supply. In recent years, the renewable diesel HVO used in Sweden has been heavily dependent on raw materials from the palm oil industry, mostly from Indonesia. However, in 2020 the share of such raw materials decreased from 44 to 10 percent.
It is too early to evaluate the effects of the eco-labels on the Swedish fuel market, but some signs of their relevance can be discerned.
Preem is Sweden’s largest oil refiner. Russia has since long been the most important country of origin of their crude oil. In 2019 their share of Russian crude was 41 precent. In 2020, however, Preem reduced this share to 6 percent, replacing it mostly with Norwegian oil. The reduction of the imports from Russia corresponds to half of the transportation fuels used each year in Sweden. If Preem had not made this change, they would have been forced to disclose Russia as the most important country of origin at each petrol and diesel pump.
At least, this was the expected rule of the game when Preem made the import decisions. However, the then EU commissioner for internal market and industry Elżbieta Bieńkowska complained to the Swedish government that disclosure of the countries of origin at the pump violates the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The government backed down, so that these countries are now disclosed on the web of the retailer only. As a side note, several Swedish retailers now have to disclose that the country of origin of their fossil fuels is unknown, since there is still no general system to trace all crude oil and other fossil raw materials to their sources.
In 2020,the large Swedish retailer OKQ8 turned down the standard delivery of pure renewable diesel HVO100 offered by the Finnish producer Neste, since it contained a fair share of palm oil derivative PFAD (Palm Fatty Acid Distillate). As a result, OKQ8 was able to disclose palm-free HVO100 on the eco-labels, whereas all other retailers who bought HVO100 from Neste had to declare 25 percent PFAD.
– We don’t know what role was played by the eco-labels when Preem decided to throttle the oil imports from Russia, or when OKQ8 said no to PFAD, says Marie Pellas, president of the Green Motorists. But we know one thing for sure: eco-labels force fuel retailers to think in advance about what ingredients they put in their soup, or they will face the consequences afterwards when customers are deterred by the recipe shown on the eco-label.
An evaluation of the introduction of eco-labels by the Swedish Association of Green Motorists: How much sustainability information about fuels did the eco-labels bring? (In Swedish)
Compilation by the Green Motorists of the available sustainability information about fuels sold in Sweden 2020, both nationwide and retailer-wise: Fuel facts 2021 (In Swedish)
Description of the Swedish eco-labels on fuel pumps
The campaign We Want to Know
Sweden is the first country with eco-labels on fuel pumps, but there are related climate change warning labels on all gas pumps in Cambridge, MA, since December 2020.
For further information, please contact
Per Östborn, campaign manager, the Swedish Association of Green Motorists, email@example.com, +46 (0)73 819 61 54