Finland is well on its way towards carbon neutrality

Negotiations regarding the EU’s clean energy package are at their final stages. The package sets goals for the year 2030 to meet the demands of the Paris climate agreement. These demands include increased self-sufficiency and share of renewable energy, considerable reduction of emissions and increased efficiency, transparency and marked-basedness in the energy market.

For my native Finland, these goals are a good fit. Finland has long been building a joint energy market and transmission link network together with other Nordic countries, and we have been purposefully increasing the share of low-emission energy sources.

In fact, the strength of Finland’s energy policy lies in its relatively versatile energy palette. The country is not dependent on any single energy source or supplier. Furthermore, the share of coal, oil and natural gas has already been squeezed down to just 39 percent.

Finland is the most forested nation in Europe. This gives Finland one of the highest shares of renewable energy among European countries.

Over 39 percent of our energy is already renewable and wood is our most significant energy source. This is made possible by the Finnish forestry industry, which has made sure that its side streams, scraps and waste can be cleverly turned into energy.

Even though Finnish industries are very energy-intensive, thanks to modern technology, the energy efficiency of factories has increased tremendously. Recently, Europe’s largest forestry investment came to fruition near my home when a new kind of bio product plant became operational. The plant produces 2.5 times as much energy as it spends and the plant alone raises Finland’s share of renewably energy by a whopping 2 percentage points.

Currently the discussion on the EU level focuses on whether the goal for the share of renewable energy should be 27 or 35 percent by 2030. Finland has already exceeded these numbers and we have decided to strive towards a 50 percent share of renewable energy by 2030.

While emissions have been reduced from their 1990 levels in all other sectors across the EU, they have increased in traffic. Finland is one of only a few EU countries that now produces less road traffic emissions than in the year 1990. This is primarily achieved with large-scale investments into renewable fuels.

In Finland the share of biofuels is already at 22 percent, which is three times the European average. Finland has set a national goal of increasing the share of renewable fuels in road traffic to 30 percent and adding significantly to the number of electric cars.

Even though progress towards all other European energy goals seems to be underway, the dependence on energy imports is one challenge Europe has been unable to tackle. This also applies to Finland. As is true for the entire EU region, Finland still maintains a share of imported energy that exceeds half of its total energy consumption. Electricity produced using nuclear power has been an important energy source for Finland’s energy-intensive industries, and it is classified as imported energy.

In Finland, 18 percent of energy is produced via nuclear means. This share is unlikely to be reduced as Finland aims to replace imported electricity with domestic nuclear power. One new nuclear power plant is currently under construction and another one is in the planning stages.

In the future, Finland’s energy production will rely even more heavily on low-emission energy sources, where renewable biomass, nuclear power and hydro, solar and wind energy are the most important elements.

Published in European Energy Innovation / Spring 2018.

Henna Virkkunen - Kokoomus