Towards zero-emission electricity generation
The current state of our planet requires great changes and the acceleration of driving down emissions. The message from the research is clear: we can still mitigate climate change and biodiversity loss, but we need to act now. The energy sector has an important role to play in combating climate change. More than 70 per cent of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the production and consumption of energy that is based on the conversion and combustion of fossil fuels, for example in industry, households and transport. Therefore, tackling climate change requires changes in energy production and consumption. Meeting energy demand and simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a major challenge for the EU and its member states.
At EPV Energy, we have greatly improved our energy generation portfolio, resulting in significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. According to our strategy, EPV’s energy production will become completely emission-free by the end of the 2020s.
In 2021, the proportion of EPV Energy’s production that came from:
- renewable energy sources was 44.0 per cent
- emission-free energy sources was 84.2 per cent
Wind power is one of the company’s most important energy generation methods
EPV Energy is one of the leading operators in Finland in the industrial-scale generation of wind power. The company started its wind power programme as early as 2006. In 2021, approximately 22.8 per cent of EPV’s electricity generation came from wind power. In 2021, the combined production of EPV’s wind farms was 801 GWh.
The fifth wind farm was completed and an investment decision was made on the sixth
Wind power is an important part of EPV’s New Electricity Revolution Strategy and zero-emission energy portfolio, and work continued on new wind farms in 2021. At the end of the year, the installation of the infrastructure and turbines for the Paskoonharju wind farm in Teuva was completed and the commissioning tests of the farm were started. It is EPV’s fifth completed industrial-scale wind farm. It produces an average of 400 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity per year. All the turbines are now up and ready for service, but the commissioning tests will continue.
Furthermore, an investment decision was made in June to build the Norrskogen wind farm in Närpes and construction work has begun. The swept diameter of the turbine rotors in Närpes will be greater than in Teuva and, when completed, the farm will produce more than 300 GWh of electricity per year.
Improved lightning protection for wind turbines in Metsälä
In September 2020, an exceptional and extraordinary incident occurred at the Metsälä wind farm in Kristinestad, when the blades of two turbines fell off because of lightning strikes. This triggered an upgrade of the lightning protection system, alongside which the lightning protection of the turbine blades was also improved. The work was completed before May, which is the start of the thunderstorm season in Finland.
EPV Energy takes responsibility for its wind farms throughout their life cycle
EPV Energy takes responsibility for the smooth functioning and safety of its wind farms throughout their life cycle. This also includes the recycling of the wind turbines and the reuse of the sites they are located in.
The sites of the wind farms can be reused, depending on the technology and energy solutions used in them. New wind turbines can be built to replace decommissioned ones if the municipality or landowner so wishes. The site is valuable in itself, because of the roads and electrical network built there. Above all, the site has the advantage that there is detailed information available about the wind conditions in the area over a long period.
Where re-use is not possible, the wind farms will be dismantled. EPV will be responsible for this dismantling and for making sure that all the necessary parts are removed from the site.In collaboration with technology companies in the industry, EPV Energy aims to build zero-waste wind farms. In other words, it strives to achieve a value chain that does not create waste materials but, instead, in which all materials are reused if possible.
Most of our turbine parts can already be recycled. For the time being, the parts most difficult to recycle are the turbine blades, which are composed of materials that are difficult to separate. Although wind farms will not be dismantled on a large scale in Finland until the 2030s, composite plastic waste is also created in other sectors, and the solutions and alternatives for recycling composite materials are being widely sought throughout the country. There are also many kinds of development projects under way at EU level that are researching how turbine towers or the materials from wind turbine blades could be reused in the future.
EPV was involved in promoting offshore wind power projects
Offshore wind power and its potential have been a topic of discussion in Finland for a long time, but there has not yet been a real breakthrough. Once again in 2021, EPV played its part in promoting offshore wind projects. As part of the New Electricity Revolution Strategy, a dedicated technology team was set up to promote these offshore alternatives.
At present, offshore wind power is still significantly more expensive than its onshore equivalent and investments would require public policy instruments to be set up. However, rapid technological developments may change this situation in the medium term, as offshore wind has the largest relative production potential and construction in Europe is concentrating more and more on offshore projects.
Monitoring of solar power technology continued
Solar power is also an important part of EPV’s emission-free energy portfolio of the future, generated using renewable sources. The economic competitiveness of this form of production has improved over the last few years, and this trend is expected to continue. In 2021, EPV set up a dedicated technology team around solar power. The team aims to promote the company’s solar power projects.
The planning of the large solar power plant in Heinineva, Lapua continued in 2021. It is EPV’s first industrial-scale solar power project. The aim of the project is to build a solar power plant in the Heinineva peat production area. The Heinineva area is large and open and almost unimpeded by shadow.
In terms of solar power, we will focus on a few large-scale production areas. The utilisation of phased-out peat production areas as solar power farms does not require clearing trees, tree stumps or the top layer of vegetation, which would all reduce the carbon sink. Additionally, using the phased-out peat bogs for solar power production will not increase pressure on food production.
Hydrogen plays a significant role in the achievement of climate objectives
Using electricity from renewable energy sources and nuclear power, hydrogen can be produced without emissions. Because hydrogen can be stored, it will solve the storage problem of renewable electricity whose production is dependent on the weather. That is why EPV also wants to be involved in research into this technology. Together with other Vaasa-based organisations, EPV intends to produce hydrogen from wind-generated electricity and then electricity from hydrogen on those calm days. The cooperation being planned in Vaasa will enable a new way of storing renewable energy. It will also make it possible to pilot a hydrogen-based energy production solution that is suitable for the global export market.
Hydrogen is expected to play an important role in achieving global climate goals. EPV’s Power-to-X-to-Power hydrogen project received a significant boost when the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland granted it EUR 14 million in investment aid in late 2021.
EPV has already invested heavily in wind power generation and will continue to do so. When wind power generation exceeds demand, we need to be able to store electricity so that it can be used at an appropriate time later. Hydrogen is seen as an excellent storage solution for renewable electricity in the future, and we are keen to be involved in its development as part of our zero-emission solutions for heat and power generation. The idea is to store the heat resulting from hydrogen and energy generation in the existing thermal energy storage facility built into rock caverns in Vaasa, while maximising the total efficiency of the system.
EPV Energy is also involved in Hydrogen Cluster Finland. Hydrogen Cluster Finland has prepared a vision that aims to make the hydrogen economy a new export pillar for Finland by 2030. By then, companies in the cluster will provide global solutions for building a carbon-neutral society. Based on a hydrogen project study carried out by the cluster, the greenhouse gas savings achieved in Finland using clean hydrogen will amount to 4–6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. Finland’s carbon handprint to be built through exports – i.e. emissions savings abroad – will exceed this many times over.
We produce emission-free base load power and balancing power using renewable sources of energy
In the EPV Power business area, hydropower and nuclear power are generated by EPV’s affiliated and associated companies:
- Pohjolan Voima Oyj
- Teollisuuden Voima Oyj
- Voimapiha Oy
When produced in a responsible way, nuclear power is an environmentally friendly and safe way of producing electricity throughout its lifespan. The lifespan of nuclear power plants is several decades, and they produce completely zero-emission electricity in a similar manner to hydropower and wind power.
Nuclear power is an important ingredient in the future of zero-emission electricity production
Nuclear power does not generate greenhouse gas emissions or air pollutants. The difference between nuclear power and wind and solar power is the fact that nuclear power is not dependent on the weather.
For approximately 40 years, Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) has produced nuclear power for EPV Energy from Olkiluoto 1 and 2 nuclear power stations. Additionally, we are involved in the Olkiluoto 3 project. In 2021, nuclear power represented 34.4 per cent of EPV’s electricity production. Nuclear power has been the largest single form of energy generation in EPV Energy’s production portfolio for some time and its role is strengthening further. The commissioning of Olkiluoto 3 will significantly increase EPV’s emission-free production. EPV’s generation resources will increase by 160 MW and our annual nuclear output will increase by more than one terawatt-hour in one go. The share of nuclear power in EPV Energy’s electricity production will rise to 45 per cent. The Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) granted permission to start the Olkiluoto 3 EPR reactor in December 2021. During the winter’s commissioning test phase, the power of the OL3 reactor will be gradually increased from about 400 MW to 1300 MW. The commissioning test run will be continued by gradually increasing the plant’s power output, and we are preparing to start OL3’s regular electricity production in summer 2022.
Nuclear power plays a crucial role in electricity generation in Finland and in achieving zero-emission targets. Currently, approximately 33 per cent of Finland’s electricity generation is produced with nuclear power.
The IPCC climate report has raised a great deal of debate about nuclear power once again. Nuclear power and hydropower are currently the most important forms of emission-free electricity production. For example, approximately 50 per cent of Europe’s emission-free electricity production is generated with nuclear power. One of the key arguments for building more nuclear power facilities is that it will facilitate the achievement of climate targets.
The construction of a permanent repository for nuclear waste is on the home stretch
The final disposal of radioactive waste has been solved in Finland. Teollisuuden Voima Oyj and Fortum Power and Heat Oy have established Posiva Oy to carry out research on the final disposal of the spent fuel rods from their nuclear power stations and to implement the disposal in practice. The spent nuclear fuel will be permanently disposed of deep in the bedrock of Olkiluoto in Eurajoki.
Finland is a pioneer in the final disposal of spent nuclear fuel. It is the only country in the world to have progressed to the implementation phase of final disposal. Many countries that use nuclear energy have final disposal facilities for low and intermediate-level waste, but no other country has started the final disposal of high-level spent nuclear fuel. The final disposal solution for spent nuclear fuel in Finland has been planned with highly detailed precision. Posiva has proceeded purposefully towards the implementation of this final disposal while keeping to the schedule, because it is time we take responsibility and stop putting off the decision and trusting that future generations will take care of it.
Posiva applied for an operating licence for an encapsulation and final disposal facility for spent nuclear fuel
At the end of December, Posiva, which is partly owned by TVO, submitted an application to the Finnish Government for a licence to operate an encapsulation and final disposal facility for spent nuclear fuel. Excavation of the final disposal tunnels started in 2021 and the construction of the encapsulation plant had already started in Olkiluoto in 2019.
After 30–50 years of storage, the spent nuclear fuel will be transported to the encapsulation plant where it will be dried and enclosed in hermetically sealed canisters designed for final disposal. The canisters will be placed in the disposal tunnels in the bedrock of Olkiluoto.
The final disposal of nuclear fuel is scheduled to start in the mid-2020s. If everything goes to plan, Posiva will be the first company in the world to start nuclear waste disposal.
Nuclear power companies are responsible for nuclear waste management
The responsibility for nuclear waste management belongs to nuclear power companies, whose duty it is to take care of the actions necessary in managing nuclear waste and to bear the costs of these actions. In accordance with the Nuclear Energy Act, nuclear waste generated in Finland must be handled, stored and permanently disposed of in Finland, and nuclear waste from other countries must not be imported.
Plenty of time has been reserved for the preparation and practical implementation of final disposal. Thorough preparations and careful implementation will ensure the safety of the final disposal measures taken.
- Preparations for the final disposal of nuclear waste began in the 1980s.
- In 2000, Olkiluoto in Eurajoki was selected as the disposal site.
- In 2012, the licence application for the construction of a final disposal facility was submitted.
- In November 2015, the licence for construction was granted.
- In 2020, the application for the operating licence was submitted according to the current schedule. The plan is to start final disposal during the 2020s.
Producer of hydropower actively maintains and develops water environments
Our associated company, Pohjolan Voima (PVO), produces hydroelectric power in Finland. The company actively maintains and develops water environments, for example, by:
- restoring shorelines
- fish stocking and transporting
- cooperating in projects that aim to restore migratory fish stocks
EPV Energy is also a part owner of Voimapiha Oy, which delivers renewable energy from Swedish hydroelectric power plants to its shareholders. Voimapiha is also indirectly involved in Sweden’s hydroelectric power fund, which began its activities in early 2019. The hydroelectric power fund’s shareholders are responsible for 95 per cent of Sweden’s hydropower production. Hydroelectric power plants will be able to apply for funding from the fund for new environmental investments. In 2021, hydroelectric power represented 10.4 per cent of EPV’s power procurement.
New investments in electrified heat production
EPV made significant investments in electrified and emission-free heat production in 2021. These new investments – electric boilers and a district heating battery – are strongly linked to electrified heat production and energy storage. The role of such investments will become increasingly important as EPV’s energy portfolio shifts towards carbon neutrality and the use of renewable weather-dependent energy increases.
A 40 megawatt (MW) electric boiler is now in operation at the Vaasa power plant in Vaskiluoto. The investment decision was made in the spring of 2021, and the electric boiler was commissioned in December. The Vaskiluoto power plant provided the perfect infrastructure for the construction of the boiler, which enabled its completion in a short timeframe.
In June, another investment decision was made to build a 40 MW electric boiler and a district heating battery at the Seinäjoki power plant. The battery has a volume of 10,000 m3 and can store up to 400 MWh of energy. This heat production combination provides excellent support for the needs of the energy system of the future that involves different industrial sectors. The investment will enable a regional reduction of around 50,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
Thermal energy storage caverns bring flexibility to energy production
2021 was the first year the Vaskiluoto thermal energy storage (TES) facility, which is managed by Vaasan Voima, was in full operation. The TES facility was used to optimise production and it proved to work as planned. The facility enabled the Vaskiluoto power plant to reduce its output when the market price of electricity was at an unprofitable level. The shutdown of the power plant during a heat supply period is also made possible by the TES facility.
The TES facility will diversify the region’s heat supply now and in the future. The power plant will carry out charging, and heat will be discharged from the TES system to be used in the region’s district heating network. The TES facility acts as an optimisation tool within EPV’s energy generation portfolio.
- The total capacity of the caverns used for thermal energy storage is 210,000 m3.
- The TES facility has a charge and discharge capacity of 100 MW.
In the future, the TES facility can be utilised regardless of the production method. The flexibility afforded by the facility is a key factor in EPV’s energy generation system and will continue to be, even after the life cycle of the current plants has come to an end. The technology constructed on the site will be easy to modernise and adapt for new purposes as required. For example, the potential future hydrogen project will be connected to it, and the cavern fluid can be heated using wind, solar or some other renewable energy source, while utilising electric boiler technology.
Investments to reduce emissions from the Vaskiluoto power plant were put in place
New emission reduction investments were commissioned at the Vaskiluoto power plant in Vaasa in spring 2021. In addition to the emission reduction investments, the power plant introduced BAT limits and monitoring in accordance with the environmental permit. BAT refers to the Best Available Techniques used to minimise the plant’s environmental impact. In 2021, preparations were also made for the transfer of the Vaskiluoto power plant to Vaasan Voima Oy, a subsidiary wholly owned by EPV.
Tornion Voima continued cooperation with Outokumpu
The close energy cooperation between Tornion Voima and Outokumpu continued in 2021. Cooperation on energy efficiency was extended by making an investment decision to build a heat recovery system at Outokumpu’s cold rolling mill.
The plan is to build heat recovery steam generators to recover waste heat. This heat will be used to provide regional district heating and heat for the Outokumpu factory site.
A plan for emission-free production was also drawn up for Tornion Voima. The plan looks at what strategic changes should be made to enable the company to move to zero-emission production. The fuels currently used are industrial gas, biomass and peat. The new plan focuses particularly on measures that could help to phase out the use of peat.
Power plants taking part in the Energy Efficiency Agreements programme
All CHP plants of which EPV Energy owns at least a 50 per cent share have already been part of the Energy Efficiency Agreements programme for years. These plants include:
- Vaskiluodon Voima Oy
- Seinäjoen Voima Oy
- Tornion Voima Oy
The Energy Efficiency Agreements programme actively drives us to seek out areas in which we can improve our energy efficiency. With the resulting measures, we are improving the efficiency of our power plants, which can be seen in falling emissions and greater cost savings.
Seinäjoen Voima and Vaskiluodon Voima power plants were audited
In addition to the Energy Efficiency Agreement, Seinäjoen Voima and Vaskiluodon Voima have been granted certifications for their environmental management systems (ISO 140001:2015) and the ETJ+ Energy Efficiency Management System. In 2021, both power plants were audited for certification.
In 2021, a re-certification audit was carried out at Seinäjoen Voima for both its environmental management system (ISO 140001:2015) and the ETJ+ Energy Efficiency Management System. Vaskiluodon Voima was recertified for ETJ+ and passed the periodic audit for ISO14001. The audit of Vaskiluodon Voima was completed without any anomalies. One minor deviation was recorded in the audit of Seinäjoen Voima. Both plants received a score of 4/5 for their audit priorities.
Audits maintain energy efficiency and responsibility
In addition to external auditing, EPV carries out internal targeted auditing directed at EPV Energy Ltd’s Group companies. In 2021, eleven internal and external audits were carried out in the company, focused on, for example:
- the company’s wind power plants under construction and already in use
- power plants’ energy efficiency, cleanliness and chemicals
- peat production areas
The purpose of the auditing is to monitor the responsibility of the Group companies’ operations. The audit results can also be utilised to standardise different companies’ practices. When planning audits, any statements and complaints made by public authorities concerning the object of the audit are taken into account, as are any observations made about accidents and hazardous situations.
Every company has its own auditing programme. The audits are reported and the target company’s representatives and main contractors operating in the area are notified at a sufficient level about the results of the audits. The implementation of any necessary corrective actions is monitored by EPV Energy and, when needed, also through additional inspection visits.
EPV is involved in the Catch the Carbon project
Life-cycle sustainability is also strongly linked to the planning of sustainable after-use of areas no longer used for peat production. EPV has been involved in a pilot project in which an area of land that had been formerly used for peat production was transformed into one of the largest bird wetlands in Finland. There are also plans to use former peat production areas as industrial-scale solar farms. In addition, EPV is involved in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Finland’s Catch the Carbon project, where the main objective is to strengthen the planning of the after-use of peat production areas in a way that enables efficient carbon sequestration through optimal site-specific and area-level planning of after-use.
Due to the rapid decline in the harvesting of energy peat, a large number of peat production areas, and areas prepared for such production, will be converted to other land uses over a short period of time. Site-specific and regional carbon-smart planning of peatland use has the potential to maintain and enhance carbon sinks and stocks in the land use sector. Given the short window of opportunity for after-use planning, it is important to develop flexible and easy-to-use tools to support such planning.
EPV is participating in the project with two pilot sites, which are peat production areas that have been in service for a long period (Kampinneva, Lapua and Ohraneva, Kauhava). In autumn 2021, the Geological Survey of Finland (GTK) carried out drone and sonar surveys of the area. These resulted in a huge amount of research data, which we will have access to later in 2022. The data will allow us to plan for the potential re-use of the sites. There can be large variations from one area to another, even within a single production site. A single after-use option is often not suitable for the entire area and the sites may have different land uses coexisting. EPV is also involved in the Steering Group of the Catch the Carbon project. The focuses of the Steering Group include:
- Planning for the carbon-smart after-use of peatlands (GTK)
- Climate-resilient after-use potential of peatland production areas + Merlin project (TAPIO)
- Carbon-neutral use of used peatlands: conditions and measures (UEF)
Being involved gives the EPV a front-row seat to monitor the progress of ongoing projects.
Taking biodiversity into account in land use
Taking biodiversity into account in all land use is a priority for EPV. In all land use for different types of energy production, we always do our best to take biodiversity into account and consider ways it can be promoted.
Biodiversity refers to three different levels:
- genetic diversity within a species
- species diversity
- ecosystem diversity
Most often, biodiversity is used to refer to the abundance of species. The more species there are, the higher the diversity of species. Ecosystem diversity refers to the abundance of different habitats. Above all, biodiversity is about preserving nature for non-humans.