Finland, prepare for an energy upheaval

Our energy system is faced with huge demands for reform. If we want to stop the advance of climate change, in only 15 years from now, at the latest, we can deploy only emission-free energy technology. This concerns our electricity generation, transport, heating and industry as well.

Regardless of the technical solutions, be what they may, an energy system like ours has come to the end of the road.

Even such simple things as combustion and burning have historically played an important part in energy systems.

However, 80 percent of the known fossil energy resources must be left unburned if we want to prevent climate change. In many senses, breaking out of this carbon bubble is painful, but it also provides great opportunities to improve not only the environment and health but also national economies.

I would say that this actually is "once in a humankind" opportunity.

Rebuilding of an energy system does not come cheap, but, if we do not do anything, that will be really expensive, indeed. In the USA alone, economic damage due to extreme weather phenomena was estimated to be about 100 billion dollars in 2012.

In the run-up to the Paris climate summit, the USA and China have announced unprecedented commitments for reducing emissions. Even though this is not sufficient for stopping the climate change, the transformation in the thinking is significant.

As a part of the international community, world economy and the European Union, Finland must position itself within this situational picture.

A strong driver for the big powers in this matter is the economy. Over the recent years, the prices of solar and wind energy have been drastically reduced so that renewable energies are already very competitive in comparison with other energy sources. According to a recent news report from the economic news agency Bloomberg, wind energy is the cheapest form of electricity, without subsidies, in both Germany and Great Britain

Another element reforming the energy system is digitalisation. We generally talk about "the internet of things", but we can also talk about "the internet of energy" as its big and important sub-concept. This concept, as a whole, holds huge business potential for new products and services. Now we are searching for a new big idea for the energy field.

As we in Finland are determinedly looking for the keys for new growth, let us also examine the energy system, fearlessly and looking far enough to the future. We must see the wood for the trees. Right now, in the energy field, new business with gigantic international markets is being created speedily in all sides.

We cannot stay behind in this; we simply cannot afford it!

For example, Finnish companies already manufacture variable frequency drives, and new innovations are being hatched in universities and research institutes. Of the renewable energy business, 90 percent is in something else than solar panels or wind turbines. Thus there are extensive export opportunities in solar and wind technologies.

Even fairly large investments in clean and smart energy technology can be very profitable for Finland. In addition, we need business know-how.

Let's be visionary and fearless; let's jump over all kinds of boundaries. Also over country borders, since big energy business is global. Also local activities are needed: it is not possible to jump from one's garage directly to the great wide world. 


Finland is experimenting.

We need to act – soon.

 

Anneli Pauli, LUT President, anneli.pauli@lut.fi, @PauliAnneli

The article was originally published in Finnish by the newspaper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus.