Column : Imagined in Helsinki

Nov 02 2011, 03:48 IST
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SummaryLast month saw a Finnish nuclear power consortium make the world’s first announcement of a new site since the Fukushima disaster, which had persuaded many countries to reconsider their nuclear programmes.

Last month saw a Finnish nuclear power consortium make the world’s first announcement of a new site since the Fukushima disaster, which had persuaded many countries to reconsider their nuclear programmes. Despite intermittent environmentalists’ protests, Finnish lawmakers have largely united behind the proposed Pyhäjoki reactor. This is only one reflection of a broader national consensus on renewable energy—it already accounts for 25% of total energy use and is expected to contribute a 38% share by 2020.

Admittedly, the Finns consume 12 times more energy per capita than Indians. But, besides coping with a harshly cold climate, they are forced to import nearly all of their fossil fuels—with all of their natural gas coming through the Russian interconnection. Energy independence is, therefore, a key renewables driver. The second one is also a factor of geography. With 70% of the country still under forest cover, Finland has historically been heavily reliant on heavy energy industries. Even Nokia started life as a paper producer in 1866. So it was no wonder that the lakes that cover nearly one-tenth of the country became heavily polluted by the 1970s. The wonder is that they are much cleaner today, thanks to a host of regulatory interventions and innovations since “the bad old days”. Pollution loads from industry, municipal waste and agriculture have been effectively reduced by means of biological treatment plants, separation technologies, advanced processing of biomasses etc, with positive spin-offs like consuming less freshwater and creating reusable water. The wonder is also that a lot of the cleantech science has been home-grown, which the Finns are now aggressively pitching abroad and especially beyond the saturated EU markets.

With its stated objective of adding $33.8 billion worth of renewable-based power generation capacity during 2012-17, in addition to the hundreds of billions of dollars expected to be invested in energy efficiency and other cleantech solutions, India provides an attractive target for innovative Finns. So, big players like Kemira are putting up factories here. This water industry giant says it is relying on the fact that only 27% of household and 60% of industrial wastewater is currently treated to sell its accumulated expertise in creating production processes that require less water, energy and other invaluable resources. Another example is Vacon that says its AC drives helped save the energy equivalent of 7 nuclear plants last year, which is looking at customers ranging from airports and malls to power stations and

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