Finnish government proposes banning coal by 2029

Helsinki’s coal-powered energy plant on Hanasaari island. (Henrietta Hassinen/Yle)
Finland’s government proposed on Thursday that the use of 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 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 the ones in Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa (all in southern Finland) 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 near Helsinki 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.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Arctic Canadian town learns lessons from Alaskan wind farm, CBC News

Finland: Finnish minister still supports clearing forests for biofuels following UN climate report, Yle News

Greenland: Greenland joins push to ban heavy fuel oil in the Arctic, Radio Canada International

Norway: The quest to turn Norway’s Arctic coast into Northern Europe’s wind power hub, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia:  Svalbard town phasing out coal to become gateway for Russia’s Arctic tourism, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Arctic winds: construction start for Europe’s biggest wind park, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: US Gov preparing for oil exploration in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska Public Media

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