Heat Entrepreneurs’ meeting, April 4th Kontiolahti, Finland

KUAS

Annual meeting of the Finnish Heat Entrepreneurs in North Karelia was organised by the Finnish Forest Centre in April 4th Kontiolahti. The event focused on the energy wood markets and current development challenges, new harvesting method trials, drying of wood by using excess heat of energy plants, and socio-economic impacts of local heat entrepreneurships. After the meeting, participants had a visit to the Kontiolahti 1.5 MW heating plant equipped with a 7.6 kW solar power system.

Adjunct professor Yrjö Nuutinen from LUKE introduced latest research on the new corridor thinning method. The method – with 1-2 thinning corridors harvested in different formations – has been earlier applied in Sweden, US and Canada. Now the corridor thinning is studied and tested for pine dominated first thinning stands in Finland, aiming that it will be a generally accepted thinning method and it fulfills the forest management requirements of Forestry Centre.

The latest results on the socio-economic impacts of Eno Energy Cooperative were presented by GREBE partner Dr Lasse Okkonen from Karelia UAS. The total employment impacts of the Eno Energy Cooperative in 2000-2015, were approximately 160 FTE’s and total income impact in the same period about 6.6 MEUR. During the period of highest oil prices, over 50% of the benefits resulted from heating cost savings of both private households and public sector.

Bioeconomy expert Urpo Hassinen, from the Finnish Forest Centre, presented the latest results on the firewood drying by utilising excess heat of the heating plants. There was potential, especially when existing infrastructure could be utilised. Drying of woodfuel could also compensate the decreasing heat demand resulting from closure of public estates in rural areas.

CEO Janne Tahvanainen presented the market outlook from an industry perspective. The market fluctuations, caused by the weather challenges in last summer and autumn, as well as varying imports from Russia, were discussed. Weather challenges were considered a most important factor affecting current markets. For instance snow damages have increased harvesting volumes in northern part of North Karelia, and moist summers and autumns have affected biomass drying. Impacts of weather conditions on RE markets are being further investigated through the GREBE project during this spring.

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Weather conditions causing blackouts in eastern Finland

KUAS

Power companies in eastern Finland have struggled for about a week to restore power to homes plunged into darkness as a result of power lines giving way under the burden of heavy snowfall shortly after the New Year.

The power companies in Kainuu, Northern Savo and Noth Karelia have deployed hundreds of electricians, and several helicopters and military vehicles to locate tree falls, and clear and repair downed power lines. Resident evacuations have been carried out in several rural municipalities due to lack of back-up heating systems and dropping temperatures. So far, about 20,000 households have experienced blackouts, some in most remote areas lasted over a week.

In Finland, national contingency planning is based on the contingency legislation stating responsibilities of organisations, institutes and privately-owned companies to prepare for emergencies. The system encompasses the society in all levels, and helps to respond in events such as experienced heavy snow and tree falls. The current operation in eastern Finland is coordinated accordingly by the Rescue Services.

The GREBE project investigates the impact of extreme weather conditions to the renewable energy business in northern and arctic peripheral areas. This includes sharing information on contingency planning, among others, which is essential topic as the latest challenges prove in the eastern Finland.

Contingency planning in Finland: https://arctic-council.org/eppr/resources/national-contingency-planning/finland/

The climate affected economy in the NPA-Regions

The second report from Work Package 4 in the GREBE Project was presented at the GREBE partnership meeting in Narvik this week. The results from the survey shows that the extreme climate has an affect on the economy and the financial outcome for businesses in NPA GREBE partner regions. Impacts of extreme weather / weather events on infrastructure is estimated to cost around €11 million only in Norway. This will give an estimated cost for the 6 NPA regions included in the GREBE project a weather dependent cost for the SMEs of approximately €60 – 80 million each year.

4.2 report cover 2

GREBEs Report on the Influence of Environmental Conditions in NPA and Arctic Regions and the next steps

Rural businesses in the energy sector as well as other sectors provide an important liveihood in the northern peripheral areas of Europe. The harsh climatic conditions experienced in many NPA regions, particularly high north and arctic regions, present significant challenges to SMEs and start-ups that can seriously impact on the viability of their businesses. In the Report on the Influence of Environmental Conditions in NPA and Arctic Regions there was findings that indicate that there exists significant climate challenges in the partner regions with different types of harsh weather. Low temperature, hard winds, and rain / snow conditions can be extreme in the NPA regions.

In the GREBE Report on Innovations from Local Technology and Business Solutions the question is: How do businesses located in these areas compensate or cope with unforeseen climate change effects?

What is extreme weather?

An extreme weather occurrence can be defined in different ways and the metrological institutes in each GREBE partner region have their definition made to optimize the specific conditions in each region. A broad institutional indication is often presented when life and values may be lost caused by the extreme weather condition. However, in this report the definition used is:

“Extreme weather conditions are weather that most likely provide problems for people, business and infrastructure”. 

“Local extreme weather” is the weather impact on societal infrastructure in the different NPA regions and is considered to affect the business activities. The phenomenon of “local extreme weather” is serious for the single business when it occurs and may have serious consequences for a business competing in an open market.

NSP 21-06-2017

Climate effects on society and business:

The impact of “local extreme weather” is considered manageable and moderate in most of the northern EU regions, and structural activities that can minimize the negative effects of harsh weather on small, rural energy companies:

  1. Regional cooperation – The diverse geographical areas of northern Europe, are experiencing a number of joint challenges in relation to location, but also possible opportunities that can be overcome and realized by regional cooperation. The experience from each region may be introduced to other Northern European areas and innovations from different parts in society can be used to create specific growth initiatives and common efficient business opportunities of the European Northern and Arctic regions in a climate efficient way. One major impact of challenges and initiatives in business operations is the influence of weather conditions on society and in the extension of SME business operations and productivity located in these areas.
  2. Strategic handling – Today, many operators in society refer to weather as a restriction in budget and argue that it is a phenomenon that has an actual impact on business. However, the weather can be a strong benefit for the business when an updated insight into the specific local conditions is available and by using a strategic handling document based upon regional knowledge and experience from other businesses. Even national weather organizations are today providing companies this service.
  3. Variety of weather – The final implication is that a change in weather pattern will result in a variety of weather phenomenon that can affect the NPA regions in a different matter. There are different effects on the society, depending upon the specific region, i.e. flooding, wind, and disturbance on roads by fallen trees or avalanche.

Results from the GREBE survey

As part of the GREBE Report on Innovations from Local Technology and Business Solutions, it was found that SMEs compensate for weather constraints and disruptions by:

  • Timing, operational planning and using experienced contractors
  • Compensating investments in fertiliser storage capacities
  • Avoiding challenging times in transportations (thaws)
  • Planning in construction phase (needed insulations) for arctic conditions
  • During processes by preventing freezing (heating, antifreezes)

 Business strategy – A minimal planning strategy for weather related disturbance in business are generally lacking both in long and in short seasonal terms. The absence of business strategies tends to characterise SMEs in rural GREBE regions both in limited financial contingency as well as in maintaining physical systems and services.

There are some cost related economic factors that will affect the small business in a rural areas of Northern Europe and it may be time to consider a new weather and climate economy that compensates the businesses that are fighting against the nature and experience higher costs in their energy operations. These companies are strategically located in rural areas which require entrepreneurs, employments opportunities and an innovative environment.

The full Report on Innovations from Local Technology and Business Solutions can be downloaded from the GREBE website HERE

The Synergy between Biomass Power and the GREBE Project

Wood biomass

A new regional renewable energy project, ‘Biomass Power’, is launched in North Karelia Finland. The project supports the adoption of decentralised bioenergy solutions and enables knowledge and technology transfer activities, as well as networking in national and international contexts.

 The GREBE associate partner Pielinen Karelia Development Center, PIKES Ltd. coordinates the consortium involving also the Finnish Forest Centre, Central Karelia Development Company, KETI Ltd, and GREBE partner Karelia UAS.

 The share of renewable energy from the total energy use of the region is about 63%, of which the share of wood energy is 82%. However, the decentralised solutions have still significant development needs. For instance, the first small-scale chp-plants based on wood fuels have barely entered the market and require user experience and high quality assurance in wood fuel production. There are also plans for the farm-scale biogas investments but they have not yet realised due to vague support mechanisms and underdeveloped markets.

 In the ‘Biomass Power’ project, Karelia UAS develops new industry projects, finds opportunities for the technology and knowledge transfer, and establishes international contacts for the developers and SMEs in the region. The GREBE business mentoring service, the Entrepreneur Enabler Scheme, will be rolled out to the region in cooperation with the regional development companies. The synergies with GREBE are evident and cooperation will take place through the GREBE Industry Advisory Group and everyday practices of project partners.

Weather records in Finland – Opportunities for renewables

Kuittila Farm CHP

Finland has seen extremes in weather conditions within the recent weeks, December 2015 has been exceptionally mild whereas the new year starts with cold records in January. Those extreme conditions offer chances for renewable energy, especially energy from forest resources.

December 2015 warm – January 2016 cold.

Finland has seen higher temperatures in December 2015 than ever before, with a new record broken on Sunday 20th of December. The exceptionally mild winter continued in Finland, with temperature records broken twice already in December. On 6 December Åland basked in a relatively balmy 11.1 degrees, but that record was broken on Sunday 20th in Kokemäki, where monitoring stations recorded 11.2 degrees.

That has, however, changed now in January. Cold air from the Arctic is dominating weather conditions in Finland, with the coldest temperatures of the winter so far recorded on Wednesday 6th of January. Finland is enveloped in a Siberian deep freeze this week, severe cold continues to chill Finland, with temperatures below -20 degrees Celsius across the country – and a new winter low recorded in Muonio, Lapland. Up there the mercury dipped to -40.7 degrees at 6am on Thursday, before dropping to -41 at 8am. That is colder than at any time this winter. (Sources: Yle)

Opportunities for renewables.

The cold can cause power cuts affecting especially households dependent on electricity for heating, which is still very common in rural areas. Also milder conditions with an increased number of storms cause problems to the supply of energy to the customers. Storms have caused power cuts as a result of trees falling on power lines.

Renewable energy from forests can offer a solution in those extreme conditions. Fireplaces, stoves and other wood-based heating systems often function as back-up systems and additional heating sources. Wood energy consumption per capita in Europe is highest in Finland and Sweden. In Finland, wood-based energy accounts for approximately 85 % of the total consumption of renewable energy.

The use of chopped firewood, pellets or wood chips is very common in the rural parts of Finland. Larger scale combined-heat-and-power (CHP) plants cover the heating of large cities through district heating systems. They are often based on renewables such as wood chips from nearby forests. More than half of the energy wood purchased in the third quarter of 2015 as raw material for forest chips was pruned stemwood. This was the most valuable type of energy wood; crown mass accounted for one third of energy wood sales. (Sources: Natural Resources Institute Finland)

Forest energy based heating systems are ideal when facing extreme weather conditions in the Northern Periphery and Arctic regions. The Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) is working with forest energy within the GREBE project and will deliver solutions to other regions through technology and know-how transfer.

Harsh weather and the effect on renewable energy SMEs

NSP blog post 15-12-2015The company ‘Narvik Science Park’ (NSP) is located in Narvik in the Northern Norway about 250 km north of the polar arctic circle.  NSP are responsible for Work Package 4 in the GREBE project.  Work Package 4 is directed towards the influence of environmental conditions in the NPA and Arctic regions and how SMEs in the regions are coping with weather constraints. The weather may affect the companies in many different ways, for example, in infrastructure, logistics and production.

The aim of Work Package 4 is to get an overall picture of the effects of weather related constraints in the different sub-regions and to estimate if there is a negative impact on Renewable Energy SMEs concerning and how production and results are affected by weather.

As an example, the Norwegian Metrological Institute has registered 180 weather warnings in Northern Norway during 2014.  How does this impact the renewable energy regarding installations, infrastructure, profit and competition in the sector?

This is the daily challenge for many SMEs in the renewable energy sector – approximately every second day there will be severe weather conditions which in some way will affect their business, and according to several climate reports, the situation will be even worse in the coming years.

Narvik Science Park will lead Work Package 4 and the aim is to publish a report on the different weather conditions affecting the regions within Northern Periphery & Arctic (NPA) programme and to follow up demands and successful solutions that improve the situation for doing business in the NPA and Arctic regions of Europe.