Finland sets energy targets, may need more nuclear

Friday, November 7, 2008

HELSINKI, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Finland set targets on Thursday to rein in power consumption and raise the share of renewable energy to meet European Union goals for 2020, and flagged the possible need for more nuclear power.

"The starting point for us is that Finland will on average produce enough electricity for domestic use," Minister of Economic Affairs Mauri Pekkarinen said in a statement.

Finland said the priority in coming years would be on building zero-emission or low-emission plants, plus wind and hydro power. The focus would also be on efficient energy consumption in housing, construction and transport.

Without new measures, it said greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 would top those of 1990 by some 20 percent, mainly due to emissions from energy production and industry.

EU countries agreed last year to cut emissions contributing to global warming by 2020 and raise the share of wind, solar, hydro and wave power in electricity output by the same date.

Aside from cutting emissions by at least one-fifth by 2020 from 1990 levels, EU states have agreed to use 20 percent of renewable energy sources in power production and 10 percent of biofuels from crops in transport by the same date.

The Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) welcomed the goal of energy self-sufficiency but said the government's capacity estimate to meet future demand was "noticeably modest".

"New electricity production capacity is needed fast in Finland for three reasons," EK said in a statement.

"The large amount of imported electricity should be replaced by domestic production, demand for electricity is growing, and old capacity being decommissioned -- especially coal power -- should be replaced by new low-emission production," it said.

The energy strategy will go to parliament next week and could take some months to be adopted.

Finland said it aimed to increase the share of renewable energy to 38 percent of output in 2020 from 29 percent now, but admitted this was "highly challenging" and could only be done if growth in energy consumption could be reversed.

To meet the goal, Finland called for much more use of wood-based energy, waste fuels, heat pumps, biogas and wind energy.

The government also said a decision must be taken during the next few years on building more nuclear power.

France's Areva is already building Finland's fifth nuclear reactor, but the 1,600 MW project has been plagued by delays and is now expected to come online only in 2012 versus an original target of 2009.
Environmental group Greenpeace criticised the strategy saying parliament, not ministers, should decide on extra nuclear power.

"The strategy includes lukewarm measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as increase energy efficiency and renewable energy targets," it said in a statement.

"Half of the potential for energy savings and renewable energy identified in the process has been left out from the strategy in order to persuade the Parliament that more nuclear power is needed," it said.

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