Finnish energy transition arena report launched: Experts highlight a need for a thorough renovation of the energy sector to meet global climate challenges and improve Finnish competitiveness

27.11.2017

The use of fossil fuels needs to stop on a fast schedule, a fresh report emphasises.

‘The energy sector will change rapidly in the near future. We will see a disruption in which old, established solutions stop functioning. Finland cannot control this change, but stands a better chance of coping with it and even striving in it with smart and forward looking solutions’, says Professor Sampsa Hyysalo from Aalto University who chaired the energy transition arena process.

A report “New perspectives to Finnish energy transition” was launched on Tuesday 28 November in Helsinki. It is based on an adaptation of the Dutch transition arena process to the Finnish context by the Smart Energy Transition consortium, funded by the Strategic Research Council of Finland. Academics from Aalto University with its many partnering research organizations, as well as Sitra facilitated the process, while the output is based on a collaboration of 23 Finnish experts, persons of influence, and visionaries from different sectors of society.  

‘This was a unique opportunity to get together people with expertise from different fields and facilitate a genuine dialogue. The aim of the transition arena was not only to produce recommendations but get people to be in dialogue and learn from each other to come up with new solutions to address the pressing issue of climate change’, states a collaborator in the process Senior Research Fellow Paula Kivimaa, from Science Policy Research Unit SPRU at the University of Sussex.

In their final report the experts are now proposing a thorough renovation of the energy sector. The report identifies over 100 measures that are needed across public and private sectors rapidly. The work has been summarised into 10 most important theses. The leading thesis is that Finland needs to act in a determined way to phase out fossil fuels fast. Untapped potential is seen in increasing demand side response in electricity and heat, energy storage, micro-scale renewable energy production and energy renovation of the existing building stock.

‘The aim is to turn energy consumers into more active players. The change requires plenty of smart technology and new services.  Clean and smart energy solutions have a massive export market with plenty of demand for Finnish skills and knowledge – but references are needed’, says Director Mari Pantsar of Sitra.

Domestic use of solutions in Finland support success abroad

According to the report, it would also be beneficial for Finland to aim to be among world leaders in the area of smart energy solutions, in which creating an advanced domestic market can help. This should also receive attention in the ongoing process of Finnish innovation funding agency merging with Finpro to form a new organisation, Business Finland, from the beginning of next year. This focus also needs to be included in the next government programme. 

'We know from prior experience that success abroad requires a functioning domestic market. Smart energy systems need to be taken into use in Finland on a broad scale, and consumers need to be brought into the market', says Harri Jaskari, MP who chairs the energy renovation group of the Finnish Parliament.

It would also be important to open the district heating networks of large cities for competition. As a quick first step district heating companies that burn coal should be obliged to acquire a certain portion of their sales from renewable or waste heat from third parties. Subsequently, the networks and production should be separated from each other, as has already been done on the electricity and gas markets.

Experts are also taking a stand in the report on many debates in energy policy that have been ongoing for a long time. With respect to wood resources, they feel that the best strategy is one in which it is developed primarily into products of high added value, with energy production taking a minor role.  For the heat sector they propose extensive electrification, and in transport, the goal would be for Finland would have 750,000 cars using alternative forms of energy in 2030, which is 2.5 times higher than Finland's official target. Energy consumption in buildings could be significantly reduced from current levels through energy services and by utilising building automation.

'Increasing amounts of uncertainty and economic challenges are piling up against fossil fuels. We are in the midst of an energy disruption, whether we want it or not. it is significant for success that changes should begin now rather than tomorrow', Hyysalo says.

Further information:

Sampsa Hyysalo, Aalto University, tel. +358 50 594 6137, sampsa.hyysalo@aalto.fi
Mari Pantsar, Sitra, tel. +358 294 618 210, mari.pantsar@sitra.fi
Harri Jaskari, Parliamentary energy renovation group, harri.jaskari@eduskunta.fi

The Transition Arena is a group of 23 people comprising experts of different fields acting as individuals, not representatives of organisations, tasked with examining how Finland’s zero carbon energy transition could be carried out in the context of a global energy transition. Serving as facilitators of the work of the Transition Arena are the Smart Energy Transition project of the Strategic Research Council and Sitra's Carbon Neutral Circular Economy theme. The Transition Arena resulted in proposals for Finland's climate and energy visions, goals, paths of change, and measures to be taken for the 2018-2030 period.