Ministry Keeping Economic Growth on Track
Mauri Pekkarinen, Finland’s Minister of Economic Affairs, is very optimistic about his country’s future in spite of the impact of the global financial crisis. He points out that Finland was ranked number two in the world in competitiveness in the World Economic Forum’s most recent “Global Competitiveness Report”, and that two European organisations recently named Finland as one of the most innovative countries in the world. He says, “Finland clearly has many strengths that can create new opportunities.”
Finnish companies in a wide range of sectors have become international leaders, including Metso, Nokia, Kone, Konecranes, Vaisala, Fortum and Wartsila, among others. One fast-growing sector in Finland is new energies. “Our companies have developed strengths in clean technologies, and many of these companies are concentrated on very narrow segments in which they operate globally,” the minister says.
Focus on clean technologies
Minister Pekkarinen adds that he recently led a delegation of around 80 Finnish “clean tech” companies on a visit to India, which has invited Finland to partner with it concerning a new innovation policy. Finnish leaders in clean forestry technologies include globally successful enterprises UPM, Stora Enso, and Metsäliitto. Finnish firms have developed second generation biodiesel using forestry waste products.
The Finnish government aims to have renewable energies make up 20% of Finland’s liquid fuels by 2020, double the EU requirement. “We believe that our companies can produce liquid biofuel from non ethanol raw materials,” the minister says.
Minister Pekkarinen points out that the use of bioenergy is already strongly supported by individual consumers and political decision makers in Finland and throughout the Baltic Sea Region. He believes that governments should create favourable conditions for increasing the use of bioenergy, and comments, “All EU member states have legally binding targets for the use of renewable energy, but the challenges for bioenergy vary from country to country. For instance, there are differences in the supply potential of biomass. In some countries it is not possible to use biomass in existing power plants and thus significant new investments are needed.”
Wood chips key source of bioenergy
Finland’s thriving wood industry will become an increasingly important source of bioenergy, the minister believes. He says, “There is a massive structural change in the global forestry industry. Pulp wood will be used more and more in energy production. The effects of this structural change will be seen particularly clearly in Finland, where almost 80% of renewable energy in use is wood based bioenergy. Because of this, the future focus in the use of bioenergy in Finland may be on wood chips.”
Minister Pekkarinen says that around 5 million cubic metres of wood chips are currently being used in Finland for bioenergy each year and that this total could possibly be increased to 15 million cubic metres. He adds, “This increase requires both economic steering tools and measures to guarantee the supply chain of bioenergy from forests to power plants.”
Focus on regional cooperation
Regional cooperation is a key to the minister’s plans for energy development. He points out, “In the Baltic Sea region, the key factors in increasing the use of sustainable bioenergy are technological development and cooperation. We should all learn from each other’s experiences and best practices. For example, gasification technology can offer new possibilities for using bioenergy in existing power plants. In addition, to ensure that the general attitude towards bioenergy is positive in the future, we have to make sure that the production and the use of bioenergy is sustainable.”
“Our companies have developed strengths in clean technologies, and many of these companies are concentrated on very narrow segments in which they operate globally.”
Minister Pekkarinen has also called for strengthening energy ties between Finland and Russia through the creation of a Finnish Russian energy club. “I would like this club to become a territory of practical interaction between Russia’s proposals and Finland’s solutions,” he commented at the first meeting of the EU Russia innovation forum in May 2010.
Two new nuclear power plants
The minister also wants to build two new nuclear power plants in Finland. He says, “Finland has high energy use because of its energy intensive forestry and metals industries. Since we want to reduce our CO2 emissions, we must base our energy sector on renewable energy and nuclear power. We want to produce all our own electricity by 2020. The message we will send to investors around the world by building the two new nuclear plants is that Finland is willing to guarantee very competitive electricity and energy costs.”
“The message we will send to investors around the world by building the two new nuclear plants is that Finland is willing to guarantee very competitive electricity and energy costs.”
Finland also offers investors a highly educated workforce and significant investment in research and development; in fact, Finland is number three in the world in the percentage of its GDP that it devotes to R&D. The minister points out, “Public sector investment in R&D will total €2.1 billion this year, and we hope to have €4 to €5 billion from the private sector.” Business friendly Finland clearly aims to maintain its record for innovation.