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Finland shows how bioenergy and nuclear can drive the energy transition

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Thanks to the strong role of nuclear, hydro and bioenergy – which alone accounts for 29% of energy supply – Finland has one of the lowest share of fossil fuels in total energy supply among IEA member countries. Yet in its latest review of energy policies in Finland, the IEA finds that the government will nonetheless need to focus on cost-effective measures to achieve its ambitious climate goals of halving oil demand and phasing out coal use by 2030, among others.

For instance, Finland targets 30% of transport fuels from renewable sources by 2030. As a leader in advanced biofuels, Finland needs to ensure that its new biofuels obligation can be met with sustainable feedstocks, encourage investments in novel biofuels production, and ensure the use of biofuels in long-distance transport, such as freight, shipping and aviation.

Finland also aims to reduce car ownership by fostering a shift from personal transport towards transport services. The report notes that while this is commendable, it should not come at the expense of an increase of total transport emissions. “Taking a holistic approach to the decarbonisation of the transport sector will require higher efficiency both in terms of vehicles and the transport system as a whole,” said IEA Deputy Executive Director Paul Simons as he presented the report at the Energy Fair in Tampere today.

In terms of heating, industrial heat demand is largely met by biofuels and electricity. At the same time,  Finland’s energy sector is investing in new nuclear, based on long-term industry contracts. However, coal and peat still play a large role in combined generation of heat and power (CHP) and related district heating and cooling (DHC), placing Finland 7th in terms of IEA carbon intensity of electricity supply.

As the government aims to phase out coal under the Powering Past Coal Alliance, the heat sector needs to shift to biomass-based CHP with technologies to support heat flexibility, including heat storage and smart meters, while fostering energy efficiency in buildings. By aligning energy taxation to a fuel’s carbon content, Finland can encourage the shift to low-carbon fuels in district heating and cooling.

Looking at energy security, Finland is strengthening its integration in the Nordic and Baltic electricity market with new interconnections and is also working on a common gas market with the Baltic States. In this context, regional alignment of policies is vital, as Nordic countries embark on ambitious national decarbonisation paths, all relying on electrification and biofuels. As a net electricity importer, regular adequacy assessments are critical for Finland in order to maintain electricity, as the Nordic market is set to see a rise in variable wind energy and retirements of existing capacity.

Finally, while Finland’s leadership in energy research and development is notable, public funding has declined in recent years. Maintaining strong R&D performance is a critical factor for reaching clean energy goals. For businesses to take investment decisions in innovative transport, energy and climate solutions, a low carbon strategy for 2050 is needed, as well as robust private and public funding to boost clean energy technology innovation.

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IRENA and UN agree to jointly combat desertification through renewables

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photo: IRENA

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) are joining forces to support climate adaptation and resilience and to implement UN Sustainable Development Goals through renewables.

In a Memorandum of Understanding signed today by IRENA’s Director-General Francesco La Camera and UNCCD’s Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw, the two organisations have agreed to  increase renewable energy capacity building and investment on the ground, get a better understanding of the land and renewable energy nexus and undertake joint outreach activities. The agreement was signed on the sidelines of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (COP14) which currently takes place in New Delhi, India.

“Today, renewable energy is the most effective climate action tool available. But renewables can play an important role in combating desertification and land degradation too”, said IRENA’s Director-General Francesco La Camera. “By signing today’s MoU, we intend to strengthen collaboration with the UN on country and regional support activities that accelerate renewables deployment as a component of a broader strategy to expand access to energy, foster sustainable development, biodiversity and climate resilience.”

Renewable energy is one of the solutions to restore land, as it can help conserve food or develop irrigation systems. There are a lot of areas for cooperation,” UNCCD’s Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said, adding that he expects renewable energy to be among the issues that could come up as a request from our Parties, in their efforts to halt and reverse land degradation.

Sustainable energy can stimulate land restoration and conservation efforts and improve the economic sustainability of projects undertaken. For example, renewables can electrify rural health centers, provide solutions in the agri-food sector and alleviate poverty through integrated rural community development projects. In regions like Africa and particularly the Sahel, additional bioenergy production through land restoration activities can generate further benefits by lightening the burden of energy in security while generating employment and income, thereby reducing poverty.

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ADB-Supported Solar Project in Cambodia Achieves Lowest-Ever Tariff in ASEAN

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The auction for 60 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity conducted by Electricite du Cambodge (EDC), Cambodia’s national electricity utility, has led to the lowest bid of 3.877 cents (US dollar) per kilowatt hour by Prime Road Alternative Company Limited. The project, supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), drew 26 bidders, including several global companies, and has achieved the lowest power purchase tariff for a solar project so far recorded in Southeast Asia.

The 60 MW project is part of a 100 MW National Solar Park and is structured as a public–private partnership. EDC is providing the land and transmission access, while the private sector  will provide power generation capacity based on a long-term power purchase agreement with EDC. ADB served as the transaction advisor for the project, through the Office of Public–Private Partnerships, while also providing a sovereign loan blended with climate finance funds to finance the transmission line and substation for the solar park. The project preparation work was carried out by ADB with the support of the governments of Canada and Singapore.

“The record low prices show the power of competition. This is a new era for renewable energy development in Cambodia and the region, and particularly for solar power generation. This is good news for EDC and the people of Cambodia,” said the Director of ADB’s Office of Public–Private Partnerships Mr. Siddharta Shah. “We believe more governments in the region will adopt auction as a strategy to procure renewable energy generation capacity, and this structure and tariff will serve as a benchmark for future projects.”

“Expanding solar generation is aligned with the country’s goal of increasing access to affordable and reliable sources of electricity,” said ADB Principal Climate Change Specialist Mr. Pradeep Tharakan. “ADB, as a trusted development partner of the government, is working toward the long-term development of the energy sector in the country.”

ADB’s other ongoing support to the country’s energy sector includes financing for the expansion and strengthening of the national grid; the development of a comprehensive power development plan through 2040; and the piloting of innovative technologies, including energy storage systems.

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IEA and ASEAN: “Key strategic partners” in pursuit of Southeast Asia’s energy goals

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The 37th ASEAN Ministers of Energy Meeting in Bangkok, 4 September 2019 (Photograph: IEA)

Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director, took part in the 37th ASEAN Ministers of Energy Meeting (AMEM) in Bangkok on 4 September.

Dr Birol gave the opening presentation of the AMEM, discussing with Ministers the energy challenges facing ASEAN, as set out in the IEA’s forthcoming 2019 Southeast Asia Energy Outlook, and presenting the results of the IEA’s extensive work with ASEAN. As part of this, he highlighted the results of the IEA’s work in response to the ministerial mandates it received at the 2018 AMEM in Singapore, related to how the region can boost regional power trade, boost energy efficiency and speed up renewables integration.

ASEAN ministers released a Joint Ministerial Statement at the completion of the AMEM that expressed their “appreciation to the IEA Executive Director for contributing to stronger ASEAN-IEA institutional ties and advancing ASEAN energy priorities.” They confirmed that “the IEA is a key strategic partner to ASEAN in helping the region tackle its energy challenges across all fuels and all technologies”. Ministers also called for further “strengthening of the ASEAN-IEA partnership in 2019-2020, specifically through joint projects to increase regional power trade and renewables integration, enhance buildings energy efficiency, boost energy security and enhance energy data quality.”

On the margins of AMEM, Dr Birol met with ministers from various Southeast Asian countries, including three IEA Association countries (Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore) and the next AMEM chair, Viet Nam, to discuss the IEA’s engagement with the region and with the countries bilaterally.

While in Bangkok, Dr Birol also gave a special address at the ASEAN Energy Business Forum. His remarks focused on key global trends in energy markets and their implications for Southeast Asia.

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