Renewable energy in Finland

Renewable energy originates in the sun, wind, water and heat and biomasses stored by the soil. Approximately a quarter of the energy in Finland is produced with renewable sources of energy. Thanks to the utilisation of wood and waste liquors from the wood processing industry, Finland is one of the leading countries in Europe in the use of renewable energy. Close to 5% of energy is produced with water power. So far, share of wind power has only been 0.1% but increasing it is a core goal.

What is renewable energy?

Forms of energy production in which the source of primary energy can, in human perspective, be considered infinite, is termed renewable energy. In addition to bioenergy, such energy include energy produced from the sun, wind, flowing water, geothermal heat in the soil, heat stored by air and wave or tide movement of water. In bioenergy, the energy of the sun is first bound to the vegetable mass through photosynthesis and the produced growth is then used as a source of energy.

Excluding bioenergy, renewable sources of energy do not release carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions – known as greenhouse gas emissions – in the air. (However, in the production of water power, carbon dioxide and methane, in particular, is released from the bottom of the reservoirs.) The carbon dioxide emissions released when utilising biofuels is considered to be a part of nature's own carbon cycle so they are not considered to add to the greenhouse effect. If no more biomass is used than is created, a balance remains. On that account, all renewable energy is regarded as a climate neutral form of energy production. Since the regeneration of peat biomass takes thousands of years, a balance is not maintained and, thus, it is not regarded as a renewable source of energy.

Solar energy refers to the heat and light energy radiated by the sun that is collected with solar cell, panels and collectors. The energy is either used directly as heat to heat tap water and buildings or it is used to produce electricity. In solar cells, the solar radiation is used directly to produce electricity, while solar panels are used to produce electricity from the heat of the sun.

Sources of bioenergy include forest biomasses such as wood derived fuels and logging residue, herbaceous biomasses such as reed canary grass, barley and harvest waste, grass masses and feed waste, waste from the paper and wood processing industry such as woodchip and waste liquors, waste from the food industry such as offal and manure and biodegradable household waste such as paper, fibre and wood packages and foods.

Close to 5% of energy in Finland is produced with water power. The possibilities of increasing water power are considered relatively minor. Finland does not have suitable circumstances for the production of wave and tide energy so they have no bearing on our energy production. So far, the share of wind power has been very small (only 0.1% of the production).  However, according to the long-term Climate and Energy Strategy its production will be raised to 6 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2020 (addition of 5.7TWh to the current situation).

Use of renewable energy in Finland

In the 21st century, Finland's annual total consumption of energy has varied between 1,300-1,500 peta joules (PJ). In 2007, the consumption was approximately 1,460PJ. Since the late 1970s, share of renewable energy has increased (figure 1) and, currently, approximately 360PJ, or one quarter of the energy, is produced with renewable sources of energy. Forming more than a third of the used renewable sources of energy, forest industry waste liquors are the most notable source of used renewable energy. This produced energy is used mainly in production of pulp and paper. Thus, use of waste liquors and other paper industry production fuels depends on the production's economic situation. However, if the small-scale use of wood is taken into account, forest derived energy can be stated to form more than half of the use of renewable energy. Recovered fuels processed from the waste of production activities and households, heat pumps operating on solar energy, ground heat or the heat energy in the air and wind power are still minor, but growing sources of energy.

Use of renewable sources of energy in Finland from 1970 to 2008.

Figure 1. Use of renewable sources of energy in Finland from 1970 to 2008. Statistics Finland 2009.

Increasing renewable energy as a political goal

In Finland, use of renewable energy is affected by the country's own energy and climate political definitions of policy and decisions and directives (for example, the Emissions Trading Directive aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions) made in EU that Finland must take into account in its energy policy. In accordance with the goals of the Climate and Energy Strategy, an attempt is made to increase the use of renewable energy from the current level. The goal is that its share from Finland's consumption of energy would be 38% by 2020. In 2009, the share of renewable energy from Finland's end use of energy was approximately 26%.

In 2008, the Finnish Government approved a long-term Climate and Energy Strategy that addresses climate and energy political measures until 2020 and indicatively until 2050. According to the strategy, the key reason for increasing the use of renewable energy is reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, renewable sources of energy are also considered to have energy-strategical meaning such as promoting the use of bioenergy and other domestic energy, investing in research and product development and maintaining the national emergency supply of the energy sector.