Renewable energy targets pose problems for cities
Few cities expect to reduce emissions significantly
Few large or medium sized cities in Finland expect to be able to significantly reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. Only a few cities feel that they can to manage to significantly increase their use of renewable energy.
However, a survey conducted by Helsingin Sanomat found that all 15 cities investigated at least have a plan for reducing emissions and for diversifying their energy palette.
Questions on the renewable energy issue were put to the chairs of the city councils and the CEOs of the cities' energy utilities.
According to the European Commission, Finland needs to increase its share of renewable energy sources to 38 per cent and to cut emissions by 16 per cent by 2020. The figures are not binding for the cities as such, but their significance is considerable in achieving the national goals.
Only Kotka, Pori and Jyväskylä believe that they can achieve both goals.
A majority of respondents nevertheless feel that Finland should stick to the goals set forth by the EU.
The loudest grumblings concern the targets set for the use of renewable energy.
"In the Helsinki region, including Vantaa, the goal for the proportion of renewable sources of energy is impossible to implement, so others should achieve massive percentages", says Pertti Laukkanen, CEO of Vantaa Energy.
Helsinki City Council Chairwoman Rakel Hiltunen (SDP) says that Helsinki can reach 38 per cent by 2040.
In many cities there are still hopes that peat taken from Finnish swamps might be reclassified from a fossil fuel to a slowly renewable energy source.
For instance, it is calculated that if peat were reclassified as a renewable source, the proportion of renewable energy would rise to 93 per cent. Otherwise, the figure would be just 13 per cent.
All respondents mentioned wood as a renewable energy source. A majority of the cities in question use wind power. Helsinki and Espoo also have plans to invest in wind energy.
Turku and Vantaa have invested in Norwegian hydroelectric power. A few communities have plans to invest in power plants taking energy from burning waste.
Although markets determine the price, the voice of the owners is nevertheless heard in municipal energy companies, notes Kalevi Luoma, energy specialist at the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities. If politicians decide that the use of a certain form of energy must be increased, that is what will happen.
Power plants usually last for 30 to 40 years, so changes do not happen very quickly.
Climate change already affects the lives of dwellers of urban areas. Decision-makers usually mention exceptional weather conditions, the lack of snow this winter, and the rise in the price of energy.
To reduce emissions, decision-makers promise to increase public transport, make urban plans for densely-built neighbourhoods, and expand their district heating networks.
In most cities, the proportion of homes heated with electricity is less than ten per cent. In Espoo, Joensuu, Rovaniemi, and Pori the proportion is above over 20 per cent.
Helsinki Energy is looking into the possibility of extending the district heating network to those parts of the city where it has not yet been available. There have been many inquiries, according to the company's CEO Seppo Ruohonen.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Poll: Most Finns willing to bear costs of fighting climate change (22.2.2008)
EU energy package to hit consumers in coming years (24.1.2008)
New EU emissions trading period raises consumer price of electricity (3.1.2008)