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Government renewable fuel target “ambitious but achievable”

Finland’s new government has set out a bold blueprint for reducing Finland’s dependence on foreign oil – while generating jobs and exports in the biofuel field.

Kuvassa E85 -polttonesteen tankkauspiste.
Most standard cars can't yet handle this petrol with 85% renewable content. Image: Hans Holmgren / Yle

The new government’s platform calls for halving Finland’s oil imports and raising the share of renewable fuels used to 40 percent by the year 2030.

“These targets are ambitious and strict, but on the other hand they will effectively guide action. This is a move in the right direction,” says Anne-Christine Ritschkoff, Executive Vice President, Strategic Research at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

Four-fold growth in 15 years?

At the moment about eight percent of fuel used in transport in Finland comes from renewable raw materials. The aim is now to quadruple that within 15 years.

“I think that’s achievable – particularly in a country like Finland where we’ve been doing research and development in biofuels for a long time and where we have some of the world’s biggest players in this sector,” says Kaisa Hietala, Executive Vice President, Renewable Products at Neste. This majority-state-owned energy giant has actively focused on biofuel. Following a spate of bad publicity over its use of palm oil, the company has sought to diversify the palette of raw materials used in its biodiesel.

“In Finland, the use of various kinds of forest biomass is a very interesting area that’s being studied right now,” Hietala says.

Big and small firms needed in value chain

Forest products conglomerate UPM also aims to become a heavy hitter in the burgeoning biofuel market. In January, the firm unveiled its first biofuel refinery in Lappeenranta, eastern Finland.

“We need big companies in this field, and we should be encouraging them,” says Ritschkoff. “It would also be good to spawn new businesses alongside them, creating a value chain to really get the whole system working.”

Today the transport sector guzzles more than half of the oil that Finland imports. Altogether oil accounts for roughly a quarter of the nation’s energy consumption.

Finnish Petroleum and Biofuels Association – which tellingly changed its name this year from the Finnish Petroleum Federation – says the statements about renewable energy in the government programme are bold and commendable. The industry group says that domestically-produced biofuels that are suited to Finland’s distribution system and current automotive stock are the most effective way to cut transport emissions.

Managing Director Helena Vänskä believes that the government target is intended to accelerate production of domestic biofuels, which could turn into a lucrative export branch.

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