Origin and sustainability of energy
The origin and supply chain of energy have an impact on the environment and sustainability.
In addition to environmental impacts and risks, the supply chains of fuels also involve financial and social impacts and risks. We aim to know the origin of the energy we produce and its environmental impacts throughout its life cycle.
Active debate on the sustainability and import of biomass continued in 2020. The Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) was published in December 2018. The directive includes binding EU-level sustainability criteria for biomasses. Since 2021, the sustainability criteria for biomass also apply to electricity and heat production. Our procurement meets the required sustainability criteria and we are prepared for them already in advance.
Origin of fuels
We know the origin of our fuels. In 2020, we procured fuels with a total of EUR 260,7 million (EUR 340 million in 2019). The coal we procured in 2020 came from Russia. We require that the coal suppliers are committed to the practices of responsible business, at least to the UN Global Compact principles.
Until the beginning of last year, the natural gas used in Finland came solely from West Siberia in Russia. When the natural gas market opened in early 2020, the Baltic Connector transmission connection was launched between Finland and Estonia. Helen has acquired natural gas through both connections.
The fuel oil we use as start-up and reserve fuel and as fuel in peak-load heating plants came from Finnish and Nordic refineries in 2020.
Origin of wood pellets
The majority of the wood pellets we use are manufactured in Finland from by-products of the sawmill and wood processing industries. In 2020 we also procured pellets from Estonia and Russia. The raw materials of pellets procured from overseas were by-products of the sawmill and wood processing industries and wood chips produced from round timber that cannot be utilised by the forest industry.
We aim for sustainability in 100 per cent of our procured biomass. In practice, this means that we only procure pellets that have sustainability certification (e.g. PEFC, FSC or SBP) or are from otherwise controlled sources. We require our suppliers to have a valid sustainability certificate. Of the pellets used in 2020, 68 per cent had sustainability certification, and the rest came from controlled sources in the way accepted by the certificates.
We request the pellet suppliers to provide information about the origin of the pellets and their raw materials, and about the supply chain and possible certification of the pellets. We require that the pellet suppliers are committed to the Supplier Code of Conduct of the Helen Group. We have audited all our pellet suppliers, and we will continue to carry out these audits on the pellet suppliers, paying attention to the security of supply, pellet quality, and the origin and sustainability of pellets, biodiversity, as well as the sustainability of the entire chain.
The decision to build the Vuosaari bioenergy heating plant was taken in January 2020. During 2020, we started biomass procurement as the fuel for this bioenergy heating plant. We procure biomass from certified suppliers, due to which we are able to ensure responsible and legal fuel production. The origin of the procured fuel is always known and traceable.
We require that the fuel suppliers have production that takes into account sustainable forestry and biodiversity. We recognise the significance of coarse woody debris to biodiversity in production forests, and we know the key principles of maintaining and producing coarse woody debris. We ensure that the fuel suppliers have knowledge of the significance of coarse woody debris with respect to biodiversity.
The entire life cycle is important
We aim to know the environmental impacts of the energy we produce for its entire life cycle. We have estimated the impact of increased use of renewable energy on the environment and on emissions throughout the life cycle of energy production. Studies conducted in cooperation with the Finnish Environment Institute show that power plant emissions are reduced when coal is replaced with biomass.
Our aim is to find out the environmental impacts for the life cycle already in advance when we introduce new fuel fractions or energy production methods.
In 2020, we studied the life-cycle emissions of the fuels, natural gas, coal, heavy and light fuel oil and pellets we are using.
Hydropower has an impact on local water systems
Hydropower is a renewable energy form, but it alters the ecosystems of local water systems and restricts the migration of fish. Hydropower production requires regulation of waters, which also has an impact on their recreational use. We offset the disadvantage caused by our hydropower plants located in the western branch of the River Kymijoki with the fishery management fee that is used for, e.g. restocking of fish.
We are involved in the continuation research project of the Natural Resources Institute investigating the management measures for migratory fish populations in regulated rivers along the Rivers Kemijoki, Ounasjoki, Ala-Koitajoki, Pielisjoki, Lieksanjoki, and Kymijoki. The project monitors the behaviour of migratory fish (salmon, trout and whitefish) in already built areas. The scientific data collected can be used in connection with the project areas and in implementation solutions to improve the passage of new migratory fish. It is important for us to gain information about various methods that have an impact on the migration of fish.
In 2017, we launched a study on the best and most cost-effective way to safeguard the passage of migratory fish on the River Kymijoki past the power plant dams of Ahvenkoski and Klåsarö. We also wanted to find new and innovative solutions. The study is part of the Government’s key projects, and it was carried out in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Uusimaa Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment.
The preliminary study and the study have been completed and a summary of the studies has been published. With respect to Ahvenkoski, the project established a good understanding of the movement of fish. The results will be reviewed in 2021 in a stakeholder workshop. The passing of the Klåsarö power plant dam is problematic, requiring further studies.
In 2020, we are involved in a project that supported the functioning of the so-called fish heart solution where the fish are directed past the dam along the pipe with the aid of the water flow. The project investigated especially the smolt heart that helps in problems related to downstream migration of smolt.
Helen will significantly increase its wind power production in the next few years. We aim to minimise the environmental impacts of projects already in the planning stage, e.g. the impact on birds is studied and a noise calculation model is carried out. Basically, the implementation of major wind turbines must be based on zoning that complies with the Land Use and Building Act. The noise of wind turbines is closely regulated in Finland. The Ministry of the Environment has drawn up separate modelling and measurement guidelines for the noise from wind turbines. By choosing the correct location, the adverse impacts of wind turbines on the environment and nearby residents can be minimised.