Finland is going to ban coal within 14 years

Happy now?
Happy now?
Image: Reuters/Vesa Moilanen/Lehtikuva
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Finland, which gets about 10% of its energy from coal, said this week that it will stop using the fuel by 2030.

The Finnish ministry of economic affairs and employment let slip the news when it released its climate and energy strategy (link in Finnish) yesterday. Plenty of other countries, including the UK and France, are slowly phasing out coal. But Finland’s commitment is more concrete. Canada too announced last week that it would phase out coal by 2030.

Finland’s long-term goal is to become carbon neutral and—perhaps by 2050—rely entirely on renewable energy, the strategy document said. In the nearer term, by 2030, as well as cutting out coal, it aims to increase the share of renewable energy in its mix by 50%.

Not that 50% is a big increase. Renewables like wind and hydropower are only a tiny fraction of Finland’s current energy mix, in contrast to its Nordic neighbors: Norway runs on 100% renewable power thanks to its geothermal and hydro resources, while Denmark and Sweden have both built a lot of wind infrastructure in recent years.

Coal consumption as a percentage of Finland’s energy mix has been falling, but is unlikely to disappear on its own, according to data from Statistics Finland:

Finland currently gets almost 40% of its power from fossil fuels like oil, coal, and natural gas. A further 27% comes from burning wood, which is one of the country’s main natural resources.

Wood burning—or creating power from biomass, as it’s also called—is a controversial alternative to coal. It’s renewable, technically speaking, because trees can be planted to replace the spent fuel and to absorb the carbon produced from burning. But it also releases harmful pollutants like CO2 at a level that’s comparable to coal, so if trees aren’t replaced, it can be disastrous.

The strategy said that new investment should not be made in coal, either to build new plants or refurbish old ones. The document will go to parliament on Nov. 30.