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Coal ban proposal moves forward – Helsinki ready to turn off Hanasaari power plant

On Thursday the Finnish government presented a proposal to ban coal by 2029, increase the use of biofuels - and in the meantime, increase taxes on coal.

Hanasaaren voimala.
File photo of Helsinki's coal-powered energy plant on Hanasaari island. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Finland's government proposed on Thursday that using coal to produce electricity or heat should be banned by 2029. The proposal will go to parliament for review and could be approved as law as early as next year.

Minister of Agriculture and the Environment Kimmo Tiilikainen says that all of the government’s energy proposals share the same goal, which is to mitigate climate change.

”We want to be at the forefront of countries that are giving up the use of coal, ” Tiilikainen says. ”At the same time, it’s important for companies in the energy sector to know on what type of timeline these decisions are being made.”

One of the ways Finland plans to stave off further global climate change is to gradually phase out the use of fossil fuels and increase the use of biofuels.

Estimates show that an outright ban on the use of coal in the country would decrease carbon dioxide emissions by about a million tonnes a year. Sulfur dioxide, heavy metal, and other emissions would also decrease without burning the rock fossil fuel.

Even though the use of coal is continually decreasing, many city power plants, like ones in Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa still use coal.

Biofuels in high demand

The city of Helsinki's energy firm Helen is prepared to give up coal, according to the firm's unit chief Janne Rauhamäki.

”The problem is the timeline. There are many technologies on their way like geothermal energy or small nuclear power plants,” Rauhamäki says.

Helen has already started to decrease its use of coal with the decision to close its Hanasaari power plant by the year 2024. Replacing it are facilities that are already producing energy.

For example, in Helsinki’s Salmisaari there’s a new pellet heating plant while underneath the city's Esplanade Park thoroughfare there’s a new underground heat pump plant.

According to the company, the fastest way to replace coal is by using biomass. According to Helen, obtaining biofuels is a big question as there is not enough domestic biofuel to go around.

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