This seems to be the Finnish response to RMI’s Amory Lovins’ “Hot Showers and Cold Beer.” I arrived in Helsinki about 10 hours ago, though thanks to an airport worker’s strike and a spirited bout of jet lag, I’m only now getting to walk around the city. I have yet to get my vitamin D for the day, the weather was foggy and rainy when we arrived, and the sun set predictably early at around 4PM, which meant that my three hour nap killed any possible exposure, and I won’t lie, I feel it.
From my research in preparation for this trip, Finland has made some impressive commitments to both the environment and stimulating clean tech initiatives. What it doesn’t have in sun resources for much of the year, it makes up for in tremendous water, biomass and commitment to pursuing technological solutions. Thanks to the Finnish government’s interest in promoting the country’s clean energy leadership – and me winning a spirited game of rochambeau (rock-paper-scissors) with my colleagues for the chance to accept their invitation – I will spend the next three days visiting Finnish clean tech companies and organizations.
Given the country’s commitment to education and technology and its natural resources and heating requirements, Finland is a leader in bioenenergy, co-generation and green construction. By implementing co-generation, the country reduces, by some estimates, 11% of the country’s primary energy consumption. While it may not be as blessed with hydropower resources as its Scandinavian cousins to the west, it gets around 25% of its energy from local renewable biomass and boasts probably the most diversified generation portfolio in the developed world. That said, Finland’s energy consumption is relatively high (almost twice as high as the European average). For the time being, energy prices are among the lowest in Europe, and it uses a considerable amount of coal for electricity and oil for transportation. Weak hydropower outputs and lower carbon emission prices demonstrated a spike in the use of coal this year. Hopefully, the country’s continuous advances in bioenenergy technology will make a bigger dent on this in the years ahead.
On the Schedule for the next couple of days:
Clean Ltd. (CleanTech business incubator)
Picodeon (Materials and Manufacturing)
Stora Enso (Paper and Packaging)
Eniram (Marine Automation and Optimization)
Beneq (Industrial nanotechnology solutions)
Vacon (AC Motor Optimization)
Metso (Will visit one of their biomass-energy systems… I think it’s a gasifier.. but I’m not quite sure yet!)
Durat (Recycling, Materials)
I would love to meet any Finnish CleanTechies for a beer or a meal. Particularly, if anyone has done business with these companies, please be in touch; meeting with other Clean Energy companies would be great too.
After four days in Helsinki, I’m going to head-up Lapland this weekend to try and track down Santa to talk to him about that tragic Christmas in 1984, the year it seemed he outsourced reading his correspondence, both in the orders and the customer service departments. As for the ice baths and hot saunas, I’ll be sure to report on the experience as soon as I’m able.
[photo: Matti Mattila]