Monday 20. September 2021
#146 - February 2012


How Churches and parishes in Europe can become leaders in Energy efficiency


Climate change, increasing energy costs and peak oil are not only challenges for the European countries but also for the European churches. Among others, the Swedish organization Ethics & Energy (Etik & Energi) invites churches in Europe to participate in a new project on sustainable energy transitions for European churches, dioceses and parishes.


Ethics & Energy, founded in 2004, is an interfaith non-profit association working on sustainable energy solutions for congregations, church organizations and people of faith in the local community. The main target group for Ethics and Energy is dioceses and parishes within the Church of Sweden. The Church of Sweden owns nearly twenty thousand buildings, the majority of them (80 %) being heated by oil or electricity. This is both expensive and detrimental to the environment. In addition, many of the churches in Sweden are cultural treasures with an ancient history; and inappropriate heating systems can damage or even destroy antiquities and lead to expensive restoration costs. Therefore, good heating practice is beneficial to the parish in many different ways.


Ethics & Energy has developed a step-by-step programme for sustainable energy management for dioceses and parishes. The main components of this three-year programme are the following.


Energy auditing: The parish fill outs energy auditing forms for each building. This is an important learning experience for the parish. The caretaker, for instance, attains increased knowledge about the energy system and the energy consumption of the buildings.


Recommendations: On the basis of the completed energy audit, one of Ethics & Energy's energy conservation experts will perform an analysis and provide the parish with recommendations for improvement. The document will consist of practical suggestions for appropriate energy efficiency and conservation measures to be taken in each building.


Feedback: Employees and volunteers in the parish are asked to review and discuss the analysis and recommendations. Their suggestions and new ideas are then added to the document.


Education: All employees and volunteers within the parish receive a full day of education to learn more about energy issues. The day involves discussions and learning about faith, stewardship for creation, sustainable development and responsibility for the local and global environment.


Action plans: Based on the components above, the parish creates a plan of action for the coming year. The parish decides which investments are to be implemented and the employees set out personal goals on how they can conserve energy.

To achieve optimal results, Ethics & Energy collaborates with some of Sweden’s best consultants possessing a variety of expertise such as energy conservation, preservation and heating of historic buildings, bioenergy, solar energy, wind power and local district heating.



Parishes and dioceses are able to join the Ethics & Energy association by paying a membership fee. This variable fee is based on the number of buildings the parish owns. Once a member of Ethics & Energy, the parish works in accordance with the three-year programme. Currently six dioceses and more than a hundred parishes in Sweden are members of Ethics & Energy.


Karlstad Diocese – pioneer in sustainable energy

Karlstad diocese in mid-west Sweden is one of the first dioceses in Europe, and perhaps in the world, that has made a comprehensive energy analysis of all its churches and other buildings. Energy inventories have been carried out in all of the diocese’s more than 500 churches, parish houses, vicarages and other buildings that are heated. In addition, action plans for energy efficiency and phase-out plans for fossil fuels have been approved for these buildings.

Karlstad diocese has the potential to reduce energy costs by 40 per cent and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50 per cent. The vision for Karlstad diocese is a transition to a fully renewable energy supply. The energy work in Karlstad diocese began in 2006 when the diocese adopted a climate strategy. In 2007 8.9 million SEK was allocated for a project called “the Climate Project” with three pillars: (1) energy planning, (2) maintenance planning and (3) training of personnel. Karlstad diocese includes 88 parishes and covers all of Värmland and Dalsland provinces and parts of Örebro county. The buildings in Karlstad diocese use approximately 32,000 GWh of energy distributed among different types of energy; electricity usage is dominant with approximately 18,000 GWh. At today's prices the annual cost for energy is more than 30 million SEK. Krister Eriksson, a former building engineer at the Diocesan Office and a project manager of the Climate Project, says:

- Taking into account rising energy prices, the energy bill may increase to 40-45 million SEK within a few years if nothing is done. For those parishes that have cash in the bank, this is the best investment they can make, much better than from bank interest. Most investments can be written off in 8-10 years.


Training of personnel

An important part of the energy programme consisted of a two-day operational training in both theory and practice for church caretakers and ushers and other staff with responsibility for the management of the buildings. The training mainly dealt with economic aspects of energy management and practical measures for increased energy efficiency.


Joint procurement

During the project, the issue of joint procurement of electricity, technical equipment, materials, etc. came up. Joint procurement can lower investment costs and increase the likelihood that the proposed measures may actually get implemented. The parish union in Grums applied this approach to buy two heat pumps and a new ventilation system. The investment cost was thereby reduced by 20 per cent.


Good local examples

There are plenty of good local examples in Karlstad diocese. Upper Älvdal’s parish in northern Värmland reduced its energy consumption by 60 per cent by investing in geothermal heat instead of electric heating. Steneby parish in Dalsland installed bio-fuel central heating for four buildings including Steneby church. In addition, it plans to section the church so that only certain parts are heated for services or ceremonies.


Collaboration with Ethics & Energy

The energy work in Karlstad diocese has been carried out in collaboration with the Swedish association Ethics & Energy and its energy programme. Ethics & Energy has produced a large number of templates for energy inventory of buildings and checklists for energy saving that Karlstad diocese has made use of.


Lessons from Karlstad diocese

Mikael Söderström Rosén, energy consultant at KanEnergi, has assisted Karlstad diocese for several years. His main advice to churches which wish to take on work with energy is to allow the work to be a recurring project.

The important thing is to get into the thinking. Try doing something all the time, however small it is. Seeing results is the best incentive to work actively”, says Mikael Söderström Rosén.

To work as an energy consultant for churches, one must have an understanding of cultural preservation. You have to understand issues such as temperature, humidity, microclimate, and how different measures affect the indoor climate. One must be able to assess the impact of changes in the church in order not to put cultural values under any threat of destruction”, says Mikael Söderström Rosén.


Magnus Andersson

Etik & Energi


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