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Climate panel: Clean electricity could cut Finland's emission levels to zero

The group noted that Finland would need to more than double the number of wind power plants to achieve its climate goals.

Tuulivoimala
The climate panel said Finland would need to build an extensive infrastructure of an additional one thousand offshore wind power plants. Image: Pasi Takkunen / Yle

Utilising electricity in energy systems could help achieve Finland's ambitious climate goals and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 95 percent by 2050, the Finnish Climate Change Panel has stated.

Electrification refers to replacing technologies that use fossil fuels as a power source with technologies that use electricity instead, such as switching to electric cars on the road or heat pumps for heating homes. According to the think tank, electricity needs to be produced with low emissions and the emissions from its production must not be outsourced.

Outsourcing emissions involves foreign trade that reduces a wealthier country's emissions, but actually increases emissions in another, often poorer, country.

The group said that if electricity was generated from low-emission sources and processes, it could introduce new opportunities for large-scale emission cuts, especially in sectors that have traditionally used fossil fuels.

"The opportunities for electrification, such as energy tax solutions, must be fully identified in Finnish energy and climate policies so that the necessary infrastructure and long-term research to develop the best solutions can be ensured" Professor Peter Lund, the panel's vice chair, said in a statement.

If electricity is the solution, wind must be part of the equation

The panel's study also examined the effects of different electrification options on the energy system using scenario modelling.

In all scenarios, wind power played a significant role in increasing the generation of electricity, and the amount of wind power generated in the Nordic countries would need to increase more than fivefold by 2050.

For that to happen, the group said Finland would need to build an extensive infrastructure of offshore wind power turbines. Last year, consulting company Afry estimated that the country would need a thousand new wind power plants, in addition to its existing 750 generators, by the year 2035.

Renewable energy sources provide opportunities

Falling costs for renewable energy sources, especially solar and wind energy, and rapid market growth have played a key role in increasing interest in electrification as a means of climate policy. The Paris Climate Agreement and the rise of carbon taxes in Europe are also prompting the market to turn to renewable energy sources.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that new renewable energy sources could generate more than half of the world's electricity by 2040. In its latest review, the IEA estimates that achieving carbon neutrality would require 70 percent of the world's electricity generation to be based on solar and wind power by 2050.

Industry sector responsible for 50% of national energy use

The Finnish industrial sector accounts for almost half of the national use of energy, thus the electrification of industrial energy use and processes is vital in reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

One of the most noteworthy examples in terms of scale is the hydrogen-based project of the steel company SSAB, which is already underway in Finland and Sweden. The company, which owns the Raahe steel plant and is responsible for seven percent of Finland's total carbon footprint, intends to make steel production completely fossil-free.

Markku Ollikainen, the panel's chair, has previously commended the move as a textbook example of what should be done to curb global warming. By utilising new electricity-focused technology, projects like SSAB's could finally see outdated, coal-eating technologies as a thing of the past, the panel added.

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