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Wind Directions Interview: Finland's Minister of Economic Affairs & Energy, Jyri Häkämies

21.09.2012

"We are strongly committed to increasing our amount of renewables"

 

Chris Rose talks to Finland’s Minister of Economic Affairs and Energy, Jyri Häkämies, on his country's ambitions for wind power.

How important is the continued development of wind power for Finland, its economy and its 5.3 million citizens?

We are strongly committed to increasing our amount of renewables and our target is 38% [in the nation's overall energy portfolio]. We are now at the moment around 32% so there is still a way to go. Throughout history, we have been strong in biomass but the other area where we have challenging targets is wind power.
By 2020, our share of wind power should be 15% of renewable energies; now the share is below 1%.
We now have 130 windmills and the target is to build 900. At the same time, we try and support the industry and create green jobs. Our target is 2,500 MW. Doing that means investments of around €3.5 billion by 2020.

Finland is aiming for 6% of its electricity from wind energy by 2020 (2,500 MW), up from 0.5% (197 MW) in 2010. Do you think you will meet this target?

It's possible but we have faced certain operational obstacles — aviation, military regulations concerning radars, planning. There is also this kind of resistance — not in my neighbourhood. But I ordered a special survey and this survey or study proposes 16 concrete proposals on how to solve these problems together with the different ministers from the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Transport concerning how near you can be to airports, how near you can be to buildings and roads. So there is strong political will, but this is the case, sometimes in the state even if there's kind of a general opinion, everyone works separately. And there is not much time. We have to solve these questions, let's say we are talking about months, not years.

EWEA statistics also show that wind's share of total electricity consumption in Finland was 0.5%. Considering that other Scandinavian nations, especially Denmark, have a much higher share, why has your nation been slow to embrace the potential of wind power?

So, you can also think this, that we are poor, we are far away. Or you can also think this — we use our neighbours as a good reference. And I try to be positive. From the [EWEA 2012] conference I tried to learn the ways our neighbours have solved these problems. When we were approaching the [Copenhagen] airport we noticed that there are wind generators very near to the airport so we were wondering how it is possible that in Finland they must be 15 kilometres away [from the airport]. The Minister of Transport has promised that she will change the distance.

How does Finland currently generate most of its power needs?

Nuclear, biomass and hydro. But there are rules, it is not possible to increase hydro, there are environmental reasons. There is a strong political consensus to reduce imports [of electricity] because nowadays we import about, let's say, around 10% of our electricity from Russia.

If Finland is turning to wind power for economic, financial, electricity supply dependability, climate change mitigation, and research and development reasons, is any one particular reason more important than the others?

I think that tackling climate change is the most important.

During the continuing economic crisis that Europe and much of the rest of the world has faced since late 2008, how has Finland fared?

The collapse, which was the deepest in our history, was 8% of our GDP in 2009. And it showed an export-oriented country that Finland is. It also showed this dependence, nowadays, on the global economy. It showed that Finland was held hostage. It [the collapse] came very suddenly. We have had very moderate growth, 1% or 2%, we had a year of 3% which was fairly good. We are still a Triple A country and we have a strong political will and we want to show the markets that we will take care of our fi nancial issues.

What do the Finnish people think about wind power?

In general there is strong support but also NIMBYism. But now we are trying to solve these very concrete questions. For example, we are studying a proposal that during the summertime, when people have holidays, when they go to their summer cottage, there will be a six-week break [from companies operating wind turbines]. The support is much stronger but we have to solve these operational obstacles.

How do Finnish people feel generally about fossil fuels?

I think there is quite strong support for our energy policy which is to reduce fossil fuels.

Does Finland support renewables targets post 2020?

We have been too concerned talking about 2020 and now people are talking more about 2030 and 2050 and where we are going. I think the idea of increasing renewables is supported generally in Finland. At the moment, if you compare the energy to the fi nancial situation, I feel it is important that in the EU every country does its job and reaches its [2020] level. And now we are still in 2012, and there are eight years to come and it is important that we reach that level.

Draft EU legislation published in 2011 aims to speed up the modernisation of the power grid and development of a single electricity market in Europe. Why is it seen as so important?

Of course, the whole idea of the EU is a single market and when we are talking about energy it needs to have a network making this energy market concrete. Our main aspect has been that we underlined the need that infrastructure investment should be based on the market.
I think there is quite strong support for our energy policy which is to reduce fossil fuels.

 

Read the full <media 836>September issue of Wind Directions magazine</media>.

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