Finnishing dependence on fossil fuels
Finland is the quiet sibling amongst the Scandinavian family of nations. Bordering Russia, it doesn’t have the “brand” recognition that Sweden (Ikea and ABBA), Norway (fjords), and Denmark (Maersk). In the renewable energy debate, you don’t hear about Finland’s policies to the extent you hear about Germany’s solar, France’s nuclear, or Sweden’s biofuels.
Finland’s electricity is equally fueled by nuclear energy, renewables, and fossil fuels. Its rich forests provide feedstock such as black liquor and wood pellets, which are made from compressed sawdust that can fuel power generators. Transportation is a different story—most cars rely on fossil fuels, although for a nation of 5.3 million, Finland has a very respectable public transportation system.
One of the smallest countries in the EU, Finland has ambitious goals . . . rather than meeting the EU’s goal of 20% renewable energy use by 2020, Finland’s upped the ante to . . . 38%. Between wind, solar, hydropower, and even tidal energy, Finland may be one of the few European nations to meet this dubious goal. And as a backup, while former Eastern Bloc nations including Ukraine are constantly squabbling with Russia, Finland actually has a decent relationship with its eastern neighbor.
I visited Finland in 1997 and was smitten with how efficient, well run, and spotless Helsinki, the capital, presented itself. My memory of the country was that everyone seemed to be on a bright yellow Nokia cell phone. And by the way, amongst cell phone manufacturers, Nokia’s phones have the highest percentage of recycled content.
The story in Finland is not perfect—unlike other countries, Finland doesn’t rely on the feed-in tariff model to promote renewables—the government prods its citizens and businesses with tax credits and rebates. This wasn't exactly working, so Finland started the feed-in tariff last year. Finnish companies are also salivating over using Finland’s peat deposits (nice stuff, I have a vest made out of it that I bought in Helsinki), which when burned, emits the same, if not more, carbon than fossil fuels.
But overall, Finland’s a model of sustainable development. Not to mention the tall, beautiful people and long summer nights . . .