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Finland needs to stop use of peat energy

Published : 23 Jun 2020, 19:39

  DF News Desk

File Photo Eero J. Laamanen/Vastavalo/VisitFinland.

Finland should accelerate its plan to give up peat as a source of energy due to its impact on the climate, Sitra, a leading Finnish public think tank, said on Tuesday, rolling out plans that it claimed would facilitate "a fair transition," reported Xinhua.

Sitra suggests that the tax benefits given to those using peat as an energy source could be gradually abolished over a five-year transition period. In the end, the use of peat could be made illegal patterned on the way Finland has banned the use of coal to produce energy from 2029. Sitra lists biomass or geothermal heat as alternatives.

Finland's current coalition government aims to reduce the use of peat by 50 percent by 2030. It also presumes that the European Union's (EU) emissions trading system would automatically reduce the use of peat in Finland.

Sitra believes that Finland would get support from the European Commission's Just Transition Fund, which is intended to help the energy transition of coal regions. Careful planning involving the offsetting of job losses would improve the country's eligibility for EU support, Sitra noted.

Peat, the lowest grade of coal, is brown earth deposit formed in marshlands and fens. It is used in district heating plants and industrial units. The burning of peat is currently responsible for some 12 percent of Finland's greenhouse gas emissions but covers only under 5 percent of its energy needs. Emissions from burning peat exceed those from private cars in Finland.

Sitra acknowledges that the issue is politically difficult. Current peat deposits are a source of wealth to many private owners and ceasing the use of peat would mean that their assets throughout Finland would lose their financial value. Meanwhile, the Finnish peat industry says it indirectly employs 4,000 people.

While Finland has to import coal, peat is a domestic energy source and enjoys preferential tax treatment. Coal, petrol and gasoline are taxed in Finland on the basis of their carbon dioxide emissions, but no such tax is currently levied on peat.

The state research center VTT estimated some years ago that peatlands cover 1.2 million hectares in Finland with an energy content of 12,800 terawatt-hours (TWh).

Tatu Leinonen, an expert at Sitra, told national radio Yle that it was essential to involve the affected people and industries in planning the termination.

Sitra is a leading Finnish think tank operating on a capital initially donated by the state in 1967.