Finland’s energy needs could be fully covered by renewable resources by mid-century, researchers have estimated.
According to the proposal by a team from Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT), the Scandinavian country could install up to 35 gigawatts worth of solar power generators and 44 gigawatts of wind power in the coming decades that would supply more than 166 terawatt-hours of electricity annually. This number is by itself twice as high as the current total consumption in Finland
The excess electricity could thus be used to make synthetic fuels or create reserves to help take the transport sector off fossil fuels, for example. To do so, Finland should invest in power-to-gas technology, converting electricity in to gases such as hydrogen or synthetic natural gas, the study suggests.
In the built environment, smart systems for heating and cooling as well as heat storage could make a significant difference to the overall carbon footprint. Fast-developing battery technology could also be part of the mix.
In this fully renewable Finland as envisioned, there are around three million electric vehicles on the roads, supported by up to 20GWh of electricity storage capacities and power-to-gas capacities worth up to 30GW.
The study was the first to have estimated the realistic cost of such a complex overhaul of the energy system and concluded the venture would be completely feasible.
“The main message is the option of a fully renewable energy system must be seen as a valid option for the future, rather than a radical alternative,” said Christian Breyer, LUT’s Professor for Solar Economy. “Finland certainly has an abundance of renewable resources, such as solar, wind, bioenergy and already exploited hydropower, which can be sustainably utilised.”
The current energy system costs Finland about €18bn a year and is getting progressively more expensive with the annual cost projected to rise to €21bn by 2020. The fully renewable energy system would require a €25bn annual investment.
The study could help Finland decide about its future. The researchers state the country will soon have to take an important decision about its energy sector as the current infrastructure is rapidly aging.
Moreover, the country has committed to extremely ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, which require it to nearly eliminate its carbon footprint by 2050.
“Energy technologies will be a big part of these solutions, but let’s not underestimate the impact that we can have on our own future,” said Michael Child, researcher at LUT. “We have the opportunity to be more flexible energy consumers and many individuals will become more active energy producers at the same time. We can become prosumers.”
The researchers concluded that the more flexible the system, the more efficient it will be. The idea is rather disruptive, as it includes a complete change of the energy politics. Instead of a small number of powerful producers, the researchers envision a much larger number of people joining the system by installing their own solar panels, growing energy crops or otherwise contributing to the sustainable energy generation.
The research has been carried out as part of the Neo-Carbon Energy project.
Watch a video about the project below: