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Monday's papers: Replacing fossil fuels, Estonian booze comeback, most popular social media

Energy companies are making a valiant effort to end the use of fossil fuels, but have a long road to an emission-free future, writes the daily Helsingin Sanomat.

Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori recently announced an offer of a million euros to anyone who can develop a solution to replace coal burning in the heating of Helsinki in the most sustainable way possible, using the least biomass.

On Monday, Helsingin Sanomat gave its readers an in-depth look at projects in the capital region by power companies aimed at eliminating fossil fuels and cutting emissions.

Looking at the emission figures for current power production, the paper says that the numbers are big and that the "big boys" are moving to change them. In the Helsinki region, district heating systems are responsible for around 40 percent of the total 4.9 million tonnes of annual carbon dioxide emissions.

The paper points out that unlike electricity, the energy required for heating has to be generated locally. The electricity used by households, or to operate home heat pumps can be produced far away. Because of the Nordic electricity exchange, it can even be sourced from outside the country.

Plants for heating have to be located close to consumers to avoid losses. For this reason, power companies operating in the capital region, Fortum, Vantaan Energia and Helen are implementing projects on the local level.

Looking at the long term, the more creative solutions being pursued by these companies are all similar. They include using waste heat, investments in heat pumps, and exploiting heat drawn from the sea and waste water.

In Espoo, waste heat is already being drawn from data centres, waste water and hospitals. According to Helsingin Sanomat, the Fortum power company is looking to cooperate with the municipalities of Espoo and Kirkkonummi to establish a new, large data centre in the area that could provide heat for up to 35 percent of Espoo's district heating system.

One further example of the non-combustion technologies being considered is represented by a deep hole being bored in the bedrock in Espoo's Otaniemi. If the heat from the earth's crust there can be harnessed, it alone could provide for a tenth of Espoo's heating needs, writes Helsingin Sanomat.

Return of the Estonian "booze rally"?

The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reports that Estonia is about to make an about-face in alcohol taxation policy (siirryt toiseen palveluun)that could lure Finns back into what was locally termed the "booze rally" - trips back and forth from Finland to Estonia to buy low-priced alcohol.

Alcohol tax was one of the big issues in recent parliamentary elections in Estonia. A hefty increase in alcohol taxes in 2017 was intended to boost state revenues. That didn't happen. Instead, retail sales dropped and many Estonians, and Finns who had previously shopped in Estonia, turned to Latvia for cheaper bottles.

Ilta-Sanomat notes a report by the Estonian public broadcaster ERR which said that if a coalition announced on Friday takes office as planned, alcohol taxes will be cut.

For readers with a special interest in the subject, Ilta-Sanomat provides a very long listing of the comparative retail prices of alcoholic drinks in Finland, Estonia, and Latvia as of last summer.

Most popular social media

Tampere's Aamulehti today carries a review of a survey of social media use (siirryt toiseen palveluun) by over 6,000 Finns between the ages of 13-29.

The survey found that the single most used social media channel in this age group is the messaging service WhatsApp. The next most popular is YouTube, followed by Instagram and Snapchat.

Facebook was ranked sixth, with its use in decline. A similar survey in 2013 found 92 percent of 13-29 year-olds in Finland were users. In 2016, that figure had declined to 81 percent. In this latest survey, only 57 percent said they actively use Facebook. Among 24-25 year-olds, however, Facebook ranked in second place after WhatsApp.

According to this survey, young people in Finland on average spend 15-20 hours a week on social media, with peak times being between 6pm and 9pm.

Just slightly fewer than a quarter of users in this age group reported that they have been subjected to some degree of bullying via social media. That represents an increase of around 10 percent since 2016.

Advance voting brisk

The freesheet HS Metro reports that as of the close of polling stations Sunday evening, 22 percent of the nation's eligible voters had cast an advance ballot for next weekend's parliamentary elections.

Sunday was the fifth day of advanced voting. The final day is Tuesday the 9th.

The most active advance voting has been in Lapland, where 26.6 percent of votes have already been cast.

In the last parliamentary election in 2015, advance votes accounted for 32.3 percent of all votes.

The popularity of advance voting is a usually a good indicator of final voter turnout. Turnout in 2015 elections topped 70 percent while in last year's presidential election was 69.9 percent.