What should we do to shape our energy future?

This text, as well as most of my texts in this blog, are designed to give an introduction to the Finnish and global energy economics and energy technology. I indeed happened to get the honour of being selected as the energy ambassador of Vaasa region (the most interesting energy cluster in the Nordic countries) and I’m hoping to continue to work with the topics of this blog also during the summer.

The day of change has arrived. I am usually blogging about technology, but this time I’m talking about a different change – a change in thinking. The thinking is about technology though, so yeah, I seem not to get far from the subject.

EU – utilizing the potential by 2020

There are a few discussions in Finland about the energy issue. One of them is about fullfilling the EU 20-20-20 agreements. There is a genuine need for an increase in our energy efficiency (by 20% according to EU). Those who are not certain about the climate change and whether it should be regarded as a real threat, are sometimes the same persons who best understand the money that rolls in as the energy efficiency is taken into consideration. It’s about making all the small and big things possible, and gaining the profit even within a timescale that suits the quartal economy that we are living in.

Another discussion is about the fossile fuel. In this discussion even those, who don’t agree that the 20% of the consumed energy should be produced from renewable sources due to climate change, do mostly believe that the oil price will keep rising. The rise is mostly due to decreasing amount of easily reachable oil reserves. Because of this and the subsidies introduced by the governments, the renewable option has become and will become even more meaningful in the future. Making a wind mill is making money, and at the same time it is making us less dependent on importing oil.

Third part of the story is about reducing the CO2 emissions (in EU by 20%). In here the responsibility lies in the global agreements to sell and buy CO2 permissions. On my behalf, this arrangement is more or less working, but some challenges still need to be taken care of. Challenges such as some of the global economy leading countries should actually and finally start to take part in the system.

The difficulties can be overgone

Finland is lucky to have quite an amount of forests and rivers. Still there is only so much that can be done with those limited resources. We need to let the forests grow at the same pace that we use them. All our large rivers already have hydro power installed. There is some potential in the small hydro and it certainly is a part of the final answer. When the energy price goes up, there are new options in making energy that weren’t economical before.

The final answer, at least on my opinion, is not that black and white. It is complicated and cannot be stuffed into a sentence or a paragraph. It would e.g. include the three steps described above. It would certainly include taking those steps even further. It is almost impossible to foresee the changes that will take place in the technology markets. When people came accross with oil, no-one first understood what a potential lied in it. The combustion engine changed the mobility dramatically. When the engine was then innovatively put to run a steam driven car aka the locomotive, the revolution had started. (Note: oil had been used also before by e.g. the Chinese, but not in the scale of today)

As far as I see it (and I’m just a student who tries to listen to the wise ones), the revolution in energy has started. Of course also with the cars there were some difficulties at first. They were really expensive and not even that fast or suitable for the bumpy roads. Nowadays, though, the car has almost reached the whole world. Who knows what will be the new top-seller of the energy market? My guess is, it will be the distributed renewable energy production with smart grids to balance the consumption and production. This might need some continuous base production that we nowadays cover with nuclear and coal power.

It’s all about you

Summa summarum, the question about the future of our energy production is complex. The time scale for the change to fully take place is longer than our lifetime. I find this important to understand. We are making decisions that hopefully will be regarded as good decisions also in the future.

The debate in Finland doesn’t need to be so black and white. We have shown before that we can make our society one of the best in the world, and we make it with bold, well founded and high quality decisions. This kind of decisions cannot be made totally based on feelings or what everybody else is doing. We need to find our own way, and we have to find it together.
If you liked this one, and would like to be one of my subscribers, I’m sure it will be a good investment of a click when you choose to order this blog to your mailbox. The button is right there on the right. I’m also a fan of discussion, so please, if you have any commnents, feel free to participate!

Wind power gains lift from the ministry

In today’s Helsingin Sanomat -newspaper there was an article about the wind power and the bureaucracy in building permissions. The liquidator Lauri Tarasti’s work to determine the problems in the wind energy utilization in Finland was published on Friday. He names the heavy and complex bureaucracy as the main issue. He also formed  16 solutions to the problems, that the government will go through in the autumn, after some preparations.

There is no simple solution to the problem, which has lead to a situation, where Finland is regarded as the developing country of wind power. Right now there are only around 140 wind power mills – Sweden had 2163 MW (produces 3,2% of electricity) installed in the end 2010, when in Finland the number is still today 197MW (0,6%)! In Denmark the share of wind is an impressive 24%.

More details can be seen here (the total paper by Lauri Taraste)

Well, the point was (as I have already earlier said) that the change will come. Right now there are 5 ministers of the Finnish government that are strongly driving the increase of wind power. The reasons are obvious. We have agreed to follow the EU 20-20-20 targets, Finland has agreed to increase the share of renewable energy from 30 to 38% by 2020, the wind energy industry will create new jobs in Finland and it will help to increase the energy self-sufficiency of the country.

A funny thing about this whole wind energy thing: The change is so rapid! I came across with this Energy Ball from Sweden. It’s developed for low wind speeds and for a small electricity need. First I saw some presentations of a prototype dated in 2008, and when I made it to their web pages, they seem to be already on the markets. I bet rapid movements will also happen in the wind in Finland!

The EnergyVaasa companies in a nutshell

I will be in the interviews for the Vaasa regions energy ambassador on Wednesday and Thursday. Because of this I made some background checking for these companies. I pressed some info to these sentences, that tell some chosen facts about the companies that I might have the privilege  of working with. And so do you.

ABB – With the personnel of more than 130 000, this among other things electricity, automation and power company is a well known and desirable company for more or less anybody with interest in technology.

Citec – With the key expertise in power plant design, this global player’s working force numbers up to 1100. The special something comes through technical communications with a touch of understanding.

Leinolat Group – This combination of six companies that together shows its knowledge in metal products and air conditioning systems.  In here it’s all about preciseness and seamless group work!

Mervento – A bold, innovative and reliable. In short, there are loads of windmills for mid range wind speeds to produce. This young company promises much, but there is also a lot of potential.

Stormossen – A municipal waste managing company of 7. In the field of energy, they will set a new baseline for effective waste facilitation with the new biogas power plant to be switched on 2013. It will be the first one of it’s type in Finland.

Vaasan Sähkö – Vaasa electricity company does what it’s good at. The 184 employees take care that the concerns around 63 000 grid customers get their electricity. The heat is co-generated and dealt to the customers through the 207 km of pipelines.

Vamp – Pure and simple. This company makes all sorts of protection relays for a variety of electric components and applications. This includes wind farms, electricity distribution and motors, to name a few.  You might find something else in addition, when you visit their page, but i like to simplify this one.

VAMK – Vaasa University of Applied Sciences has 13 studying programs in Finnish and Swedish as well as three degree programs in English. The six engineering programs train capable working force for the industry at the region, for Finland, and internationally.

University of Vaasa – Over 5 000 students, of which 11% come with an international background. Business and administration studies are included in the studies. There are 5 international studying programs inside the total of 28 Master’s degree possibilities (although two candidate programs seem to share the technical communications Master’s program) The whole Vaasa is the home of around 12 000 students.

Vaasa Energy Institute – VEI takes the heavy responsible of being the leading energy research center in the Nordic hotspot of the energy industry. A six years old VEI rockets through this goal with the forceful balance of technology and economical knowhow.

VASEK – The coordinator and facilitator, the active part of local growth: The Vaasa region development company offers among other things advice and connections to everybody willing to start a business or maybe strengthening one with his/her own expertise.  The name says it all.

VNT Management – This Venture Capital Management Company is behind many of the future growing technology companies, among which are e.g. The Switch, European Batteries Oy, GasEK and Mervento. This is about clean energy.

Wapice – The 200 people working for Wapice know their stuff. Programmers, developers and designers in both IT and electronics are needed in providing the palette of services, technologies and products, with which the rapidly growing need of the local and global industry are taken care of.

Wärtsilä – Global employer of 18 000 is a heavy designer, leader and maker in the energy and marine solutions. Needs no further introductions. Has a joint venture with Metso in producing a small-scale sustainable energy solutions for electricity and district heating systems.

More info about these companies can be found here: http://energyvaasa.fi/lahettilas/tyoenantajat (in Finnish)

All the companies in EnergyVaasa community can be found here: http://energyvaasa.fi/tyopaikat (in Finnish)

New facebook-page for Tuomas is open!

Please come to see my new applying for a job -page. It’s cooler than it sounds like!!! And the page is supposed to be cool as well. Please help me make it cool by posting whatever you feel like!

More info of this dream job can be found in Finnish from here: http://energyvaasa.fi/lahettilas/ The six applicants that are left will be introduced on next Tuesday the 3.4.2012 on that page. We have our two days interviews including some press interviews on 11.-12.4. Wish me luck!


My page –> http://tinyurl.com/Energialahettilas


About the trends of the future

Will the Desertec-project take place and provide both Europe and North Africa with cheap and environment friendly electricity? Are we gonna switch to the hydrogen economy and drive all our private driving with fuel cells? Is there gonna be any private car ownership? When do we take the giant leap to fusion energy and can forget about energy efficiency once more, like it was with cheap coal and then with cheap oil? Where is this world heading to??

It might be foolish idea to try to see into the future. Still in practically every corporation from a small to a big one, people try to do it. Of course it is interesting to be able to guess, what kind of preferences the people on average will have. On a special branch of the markets after the next 10 years, what do they want or think they want? In which way do they want to hear from what they might want and need?

This might be slightly off topic, but I’m certain it isn’t useless. The whole idea is that you collect as many of the weak signals in the media as you can, in order to see where the development in the branch of your choice is going to. I know, this is not a new idea. I came by it while reading a book about community communications (published 2001). Still it’s in my opinion important thing to understand. According to Hiltunen a news article, a blog post, or a picture is a weak signal IF:

  1. It makes your colleagues laugh.
  2. Your colleagues are strongly against it – no way, never gonna happen!
  3. It rises wondering
  4. No one has ever heard of it
  5. People don’t want to talk more about it inside the organization
At it’s best, a weak signal matches with all of the points 1-5. If none of these match, it’s not a weak signal. (It might be that it is already known phenomena etc.)

So the question is, how can you collect these? One answer can be found through the link. And now, what do you think of the picture? (A cheap joke, I know, but think about it!)

And IF you haven’t already heard of these jewelry of the ideas, please do take a minute or two scrolling these through 😉 They are the 9 not so crazy ideas to combating climate change.

There is potential – also in solar

Yesterday I was at a gym with a German friend of mine. He’s studying mechanical engineering and business economics, so it was not surprising that after the gym, when we sat down to eat something, the discussion went to energy technologies and their future.

I’m not gonna go through the whole conversation, but the key point was, that even though in Germany “almost every roof” has a solar panel installed, and it is economically wise even in a relatively short time range to install even small devices, not all the people do it. They think, that Photovoltaics (PV) is something, that is still not mature enough. They think that it’s better waiting for the cells to become better and so on. Also a question arises: Why does the government support the industry so much just to get to pay every household an abnormally high price of the electricity? It also makes the overall electricity price to rise. For those confused: If you install a PV panel to your roof in Germany, you will get a fixed price for the electricity you produce to the grid. This price is more than what you pay for your electricity on average. Of course you can also use it yourself, but right now, I guess, it’s economically wise to sell it out.

Well the reason for the question above is: IF there would be no investments made in ( if no-one would buy the) PV, there would be no industry to produce them. The state is assured that PV is a good thing. That’s why they are strongly driving the economy to make it an economical investment for the households to buy a PV panel. This leads to a booming industry, which leads to more money to that industry. More money means also more money to R&D (Research and Development), because a variety of companies are trying to get a firm market position in the early growing markets. This inevitably leads to development.

In real life it means cheaper, more efficient solar panels or other technologies to harness the power of the sun. Also for the regular consumers. This is, as we know, essential for the renewable future of our economy. It helps us when we don’t want to be dependent on the last oil drops, for which you soon have to pay 150 or 200 dollars per barrel.

Member of Parliament, Oras Tynkkynen, shared this one this morning in Twitter. I’m quite certain, you’ll find it interesting! plastics-put-solar-on-the-verge-of-an-energy-revolution

Good news everybody! Finland might still have hope!

I watched a video of my might-to-be-employers seminar in Vaasa. The key thing there was that Finland has finally taken a step forward in the Wind Energy -branch. Now, I mean that there has been a quite nice amount of development and companies working on it, but now the government is also doing it’s utmost to come up with something that works.

In Germany and many other countries in the EU that have been increasing their Wind energy production heavily, the most important element has been the feed-in tariffs. Now they have implemented these also in Finland.

This means, that wind energy producers have been granted with a reasonable price for the electricity that they are making. This means, they now can invest on wind, and make a profit. This means more windmills. This leads to higher amount of competent people how make, install and maintain these devices of the green revolution. This means that they will be installed (and so on) more effectively, in the meaning of lower costs in the future. This means cheaper green electricity for everyone. Good good good!

Is it really so? Is it more expensive to build new technology? Well, let’s take this sad to hear of Olkiluoto 3 -project as an example. Otherwise it would be quite cheap energy production, but… Since the nuclear reactor type that they are building is new (EPR in stead of PWR), it is more difficult to build than the old type, with which people already had building experience. I mean had, back in the 70’s.

If you didn’t get the Olkiluoto-example, I have another one for you: Just think what usually happens to the first creps / pancake you make. Yep. It always fails, but still you keep doing those, ’cause you know, that as the pan gets more oil and fat (read money and experience in the energy business) the creps in the end will be sweet and tasty as heaven 😉