The Finnish Parliament approved a motion last week to bring forward its ban on coal for energy use to May 1, 2029, bringing the country in line with the majority of the European Union in walking away from coal-fired power.
Reuters reported last Thursday that the Finnish Government had approved a measure on Wednesday to ban the use of coal to produce energy from May 1, 2029, except in an emergency.
“It has been planned for quite some time,” said Lauri Tenhunen, a senior adviser to the Finnish Parliament’s commerce committee, which prepared the legislation, speaking to Reuters last week. “Yesterday it was approved. The effective date is May 1, 2029. It is a legislation to ban the energy use of coal.”
“Already, most EU member states have banned new coal power plants,” explained Gerard Wynn, an Energy Finance Consultant with the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis (IEEFA). “By approving a coal phaseout plan, Finland joins 10 other EU countries planning to eliminate existing coal power plants as well.
France and Sweden lead coal phaseout plans in 2022, followed by Austria, Ireland, Italy, and Britain in 2025, and then Finland, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Portugal.
“Besides government-led coal phaseout plans, coal utilities face other headwinds including the falling cost of renewables and rising carbon prices, as well as pressure from investors, creditors and insurers. That could see coal come off the grid much sooner than expected in other countries, for example in Germany which recently agreed a phaseout by 2038 at the latest.”
The resolution was passed as part of a suite of policy measures proposed by Environment Minister Kimmo Tiilikainen who has been campaigning for bringing forward the coal ban and increasing the country’s climate and environmental actions. In April 2018 Tiilikainen insisted that “greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced much sooner than initially planned to mitigate climate change”.
At the time, the Finnish Government was planning to draft a subsidy package worth around €90 million that would be used to reward energy firms that step away from coal by 2025.
The Government also wanted to boost investments in renewable energy and to make better use of Finland’s large district heating network, allowing for the possibility of scaling up the share of hydro, solar, and wind power in the country’s heating sector.
“We are happy that the coal ban is finally true,” said Olli Tiainen, a Climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Nordic. “2029 is however not fast enough but it is definitely the right direction. This opens up the possibility to ban other fossil fuels as well and the next step is to ensure that this will happen.
At the same time, we want to make sure that coal is not replaced only with biomass as it is not climate-neutral and poses a threat to Finnish biodiversity. When we do that, phase out coal without replacing it with biomass, we truly can show the rest of the world how to decarbonize the heating sector since the main product of all the coal plants we have left in Finland are mainly producing district heat.”
Finland now joins a growing number of countries that have implemented plans to ban coal from their energy mix – or variations thereof, depending on the specific circumstances.
The list includes the UK, which by 2025 will set a limit on emissions from coal-fired power plants and cease “unabated” coal; France will phase out its coal capacity by 2023; Canada is looking to remove coal by 2030; Germany will aim for 2038; and Denmark by 2030.