The smokestacks of a coal-fired co-generation power plant in Hanasaari, Helsinki, on 22 January, 2016.
The smokestacks of a coal-fired co-generation power plant in Hanasaari, Helsinki, on 22 January, 2016.

The Finnish Government has announced that it is mulling over prohibiting the use of coal in energy production by 2030.

Olli Rehn (Centre), the Minister of Economic Affairs, revealed in an interview with Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday that the energy and climate strategy currently under preparation recommends that the use of coal be stopped by 2030 – possibly by means of a statutory prohibition.

The Government is to present its new energy and climate strategy to the Parliament in March, 2017.

Finland would thereby become the first country in the world to resort to a statutory prohibition to stop the use of coal in energy production.

Coal is a particularly emissions-intensive source of energy, and countries around the world are seeking to reduce its use in electricity production. Statutory prohibitions, however, have only been adopted at the regional level, such as in Oregon, the United States, and Ontario, Canada, according to Helsingin Sanomat.

Rehn estimates in an interview with the daily that the prohibition would be comparable to the granting of voting rights to women. It would also allow the country to establish itself as the home country of cleantech, he envisions.

The Finnish Energy (ET) has expressed its dismay with the proposal.

“The discussion about prohibiting the use of coal under law is inexplicable. Such an effort would not succeed without offering substantial compensation [to energy producers]. I fail to understand how the central administration can spend so recklessly and be so unappreciative of the situation in the energy markets,” says Jukka Leskelä, the managing director of ET.

Comparing the proposed prohibition to the granting of voting rights to women is justifiable only from a constitutional perspective, he adds. “The protection of property would be one of the most important questions. The Government is toying with it in a way that jeopardises the entire investment climate in the energy sector,” he explains.

Leskelä believes a statutory prohibition would only damage the current energy system.

“The use of coal has already been reduced to a fraction of what it was previously with the current system of steering and corporate investments, and the trend will remain the same in the future,” he says.

Coal accounted for approximately eight per cent of the electricity produced in Finland in 2015, according to ET.

ET instead urges the country to use the resources at its disposal to ensure it is able to take advantage of the business opportunities presented by global energy trends, such as smart grids and electronic transport. The Government, it says, should at the very least refrain from raising the feed-in tariffs designed to promote the use of renewable energy sources in electricity production.

“Energy producers do not want the tariffs, nor are they justifiable in light of the energy sector objectives of the Government or the EU,” says Leskelä.

“Hopefully reason will prevail and we will move towards a modern, smart system of steering that encourages Finland to take advantage of its share of mega-trends in the energy sector instead of using public funds to stage expensive publicity stunts.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Antti Aimo-Koivisto – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi