Abstract: Strategies for Energy Transition: The Swedish Pulp and Paper Industry, 1973-1990

Kristina Soderholm


This paper explores strategies to accomplish energy transition in the Swedish pulp and paper industry during the 1970s and the 1980s. In the wake of the first oil crisis in 1973 until the late 1980s, the use of fossil fuels within the sector was reduced by 70 percent. The lion's share of this reduction was achieved by the substitution of biofuels for oil, which, besides cutting the costs of energy also resulted in significant environmental improvements. Substituting biofuels for oil proved to be the overall most reasonable way to decrease the use of oil, even though alternatives such as coal were considered. Initially, oil reductions and energy conservation were accomplished by relatively small measures, but there was a great need for long-term R&D to push the technology development further. Inter-firm and state-firm collaborations therefore became strategically important. The strategies for substitution interacted, however, strongly with institutional changes in the energy area, the ongoing greening of the industry as well as an urgent need to enhance international competitiveness. Our study concludes that the oil crises enforced a more sustainable production in a dynamic way, which, according to our knowledge, has been overlooked in the business history literature so far.