Finland approves new climate and energy strategy

07 November 2008

The Finnish government has approved a new, "ambitious" climate and energy strategy for Finland, with detailed insights into climate and energy policy measures up to 2020, and suggestions up to 2050.

The new Long-term Climate and Energy Strategy identifies Finland’s strategic energy objectives to 2020 as ensuring "environmental sustainability, security of supply and competitiveness of energy supply." The strategy also gives suggestions up to 2050. The Finnish government is aiming to fulfil these objectives through a "marked increase in the share of indigenous energy, a decrease in the share of coal and oil on the balance sheet will further diversification."

The "intense increases in oil, coal and natural gas world market prices, and the high price of emission allowance in the EU’s emission trading, have significantly changed the price relationship of fossil fuel energy forms" and their relationship to alternative generation in favour of the latter.

The strategy calls for Finland's total electricity consumption to rise to no more than 98 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2020, compared with the current level of less than 90 TWh. Meanwhile, it says that the share of renewable energy should increase to 38% by 2020.

The report, produced by the government’s Ministerial Working Group on Climate and Energy Policy, states that the Finnish "energy system would be based on greater use of electricity than before." Finland currently has very high per capita electricity consumption - some 16,000 kWh per head per year - and the strategy will also focus on reducing or stabilising this consumption in parallel with the development of new generation resources.

In a statement, the Ministry of Employment and the Economy said, "The strategy clearly proves that the objectives proposed by the European Commission for Finland regarding the reduction of emissions, promotion of renewable energy, or enhancing the efficiency of energy consumption, cannot be attained without new, prominent climate and energy policy measures."

It added, "Without any new measures, in 2020 Finland's greenhouse gas emissions would exceed those of 1990 by approximately 20%, almost entirely due to emissions from energy production and industry."

The European Commission has proposed that Finland should cut emissions from other sectors, such as transport, domestic heating and agriculture, by an average of 16% from the 2005 level by 2020.

Nuclear option

The strategy gives priority to "plants that do not emit greenhouse gases, or ones with low emissions, such as combined power and heat plants using renewable fuels, and financially profitable and environmentally acceptable hydro and wind power plants." However, its states, "We will prepare for constructing additional nuclear power."

The strategy defines the following policy regards nuclear power: "According to calculations, in terms of sufficient electric energy, a decision-in-principle as per the Nuclear Energy Act on the additional construction of nuclear energy generation would be necessary in the next few years, i.e. during the current government term, to facilitate the replacement of condensing power capacity causing emissions, with capacity with no emissions, and to improve the self-sufficiency of electricity sourcing."

However, it adds that the decision-in-principle should be based "on the premise that nuclear power will not be constructed in this country for the purposes of the permanent export of electricity."

Finland currently has four operating nuclear power reactors providing some 27% of its electricity. A fifth reactor is under construction at Olkiluoto, which is expected to come online in 2012. Three companies - Fennovoima, Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) and Fortum - have all announced plans to construct new plants, but the government has said that it will only issue a licence for one of them.