Twists and loops in the process to support the energy use of wood in Finland

10.4.2013 at 14:56

Teijo Rytteri


The EU aims to increase the use of renewable energy. In Finland the present share of renewable energy is 28 % and the official goal set by the EU is 38 % in 2020. To reach this objective Finland will be required to increase its energy use of forests. In terms of forest policy this means that new objectives and means will be added to old ones, or old ones will be replaced. One method chosen by the Finnish government was to establish an act supporting the energy use of small-diameter wood. The process to bring the act into force appeared to be, however, complicated and contested.


The aim of Finnish forest policy since 1960s has been to direct all wood towards industrial use. In 1969 a committee of forest researchers argued that prices of fossil fuels and electricity should be controlled in a way that would decrease the use of firewood. Thus, wood was reserved for industrial purposes. This aim served the interests of forest industry: the more resources available the better and the fewer pressures on wood prices to rise.
In the late 2000s the Finnish politicians realized that ambitious goals set by EU would not be achieved if subsidizes advancing the use of energy wood would not be increased. As a consequence the Finnish Parliament accepted in 2010 a law providing subsidizes to energy use of small-diameter wood.


However, the Finnish forest industry was against the law because the fear was that wood suitable for pulp production would be utilized for energy use. Following, Finnish forest industry made a complaint to the EU Commission about the law. Finnish forest sector actors were furious about this but revisions accepted by the industry were integrated, and industries withdraw their complaint.


However, finally in 2012 the European Commission made a decision to not accept the law since it was regarded to be in conflict with EU competition principles. Originally, the Finnish governments’ aim was to direct subsidies to forest owners; thus, following the traditional system of silvicultural subsidies. Contrary, the EU argued that money should be directed towards energy producers. Finally, the Finnish government had consent to direct subsidies to energy producers.


This process shows how path dependencies related to national institutions produce decisions following traditional governance and interpretation models. Additionally, the aim to increase the energy use of wood is against some interests, and other levels of governance can have unexpected consequences. Promotion of bioenergy use can be a complicated process even if all actors support the principal aim.

 

 

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Teijo Rytteri

 

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