Article Series: Innovators’ Finland Tackles Energy Challenges in Spring 2016

Want to know about Finnish energy solutions? Innovators’ Finland – Technology Academy Finland’s online publication – will tell you.

The world is facing several huge social challenges today. The climate is changing, non-renewable energy sources are being depleted, people in the West are ageing while the world population continues to grow, straining the carrying capacity of the planet. Economic and political instability and unpredictability are an integral part of the chain of challenges.

In its new Innovators Finland digital publication, Technology Academy Finland TAF launches a series of stories showcasing Finnish technology solutions to colossal social challenges.

The gravest challenges facing the world today are global webs of issues that are affected by a great number of factors simultaneously. Massive challenges can seldom be solved through some individual innovation, but every nation and society can contribute to the totality of solutions.

The purpose of this series is to showcase Finnish innovations that contribute to the global network of solutions, pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that allow life to be improved and growth be made more sustainable step by step – using technology and bold innovation. Finnish innovation is in the spearheading category, and pioneering research is being carried out here in several fields of technology.

Energy as Theme for the Spring 2016

The new Innovators’ Finland article series will focus on one great challenge at a time. The theme in spring 2016 is energy.

“Energy systems have to be emission free by 2050.”

Modern societies rely on the production and use of energy in nearly everything. Our world runs on fossil fuels, which account for approximately 80 percent of primary energy consumption in the world. Only one fifth comes from renewable sources and nuclear plants. The greatest challenge of the energy sector is to discontinue the use of fossil energy and thereby to mitigate climate change.

The World Climate Summit in Paris reached a historical agreement last December, when for the first time nearly all countries in the world committed to the prevention of climate change. The goal of limiting global warming was set at 1.5 degrees Celsius instead of the previous goal of 2 degrees. According to Sanna Syri, Aalto University Professor of Energy Technology and Energy Economics, the goals are extremely ambitious.

“We should have emission free energy systems in place throughout the world by no later than 2050, and in the industrialised countries even before that, in order to limit climate warming to 1.5 degrees,” she says.

What makes it so difficult to alter the operating environment is that the energy sector and its solutions are directly and to a very large extent controlled by politics and money.

“In spite of the Paris Agreement, we have no clear commitments as yet on how each country must curb their emissions. Energy investments are also quite large and long-term. The life span of power plants is measured in decades, and securing funding for new technology is difficult,” Syri says.

Energiatekniikan ja -talouden professori Sanna Syri.
Sanna Syri, Professor
of Energy Technology
and Energy Economics.

When challenges are tough and aims are high, technology and innovation are all the more important. Breakthroughs can also be achieved very rapidly.

“Ten years ago no one could have predicted that the cost of solar energy in particular could fall so radically to the present level. The mass production of solar cells and consequent drop in prices are positive surprises that are now changing the world,” Syri says encouragingly.

Although a great number of new fossil energy power plants are constructed globally and although China uses almost as much coal as the rest of the world put together, even small partial solutions are important for the environment and the future of humanity.

“Finland has a lot to give in the area of clean energy solutions and clean-tech exports,” Says Syri.

Text: Laura Manas

Find all the stories in the series under the category “Theme: Energy”. Future issues of Innovators’ Finland will showcase Finnish energy solutions. Over the course of the spring we will also publish more extensive articles on Finnish innovation and on the Millennium Technology Prize to be awarded on 24 May 2016.

Download pdf.