What will Finland look like in the 2030s? A digitalised transport network, buzzing with autonomous vehicles, transports some employees to their workplaces while others work from home, engaging in virtual meetings enabled by data centres all over Finland. Concentrations of battery factories run on emission-free energy. Coal and peat are kept only in the emergency stores maintained by the National Emergency Supply Agency.
Electricity generation and consumption are increasing and diversifying.
“The digitalisation of work, cloud services, and Finland’s goal of becoming carbon neutral require more electricity, and we have strong conditions in place to generate it in Finland. Fingrid’s main grid is in good condition, the electricity network is advanced, and cheap electricity is widely available,” says Alpo Akujärvi, Senior Advisor at Business Finland.
Diversifying energy generation, a reliable electricity supply, and a safe operating environment will boost Finland’s attractiveness in the global competition for new company projects. According to Akujärvi, international data centres are now being placed in edge locations like Finland, as the markets elsewhere in Europe are becoming saturated.
In the competition for data centres, one of Finland’s strengths is its ready-made district heating network, which differentiates us from other countries.
“In the competition for data centres, one of Finland’s strengths is its ready-made district heating network, which differentiates us from other countries. Fingrid’s main grid is also exceptional by international comparison as large-scale investors and electricity consumers are able to connect to it directly, which increases cost-efficiency,” Akujärvi says.
According to him, approximately 80 per cent of companies’ IT infrastructure will be in the cloud by 2025. It has also been forecasted that approximately 65 per cent of global GDP will be produced either partly or entirely in digital form by the end of next year.
Predictability and flexibility are Fingrid’s strengths
Electricity consumption and generation and the energy revolution as a whole are in full swing at the moment. The rapid leap forward puts pressure on Fingrid to take a long-term, proactive approach to the development of its grid and platform.
“Fingrid’s strength is the flexibility of its operations. Large industrial projects are often long-term investments. Fingrid has had the capability to take the situation in hand and plan energy solutions and the development of the main grid with potential new partners at an early phase,” Akujärvi says.
In the future, responsible players will be interested in clean energy. Finland’s goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2035 will accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to low-emission solutions. The shift in the structure of energy generation will be a strong driver of Fingrid’s network development.
“We want to lay the foundation for a carbon-neutral Finland and create a clean electricity system. We are looking for solutions to address the new requirements introduced by the energy revolution by constantly improving the main grid and envisaging various scenarios to describe the requirements that the shift in the structure of generation and the accelerating pace of electrification in society could place on the development of the main grid and the power system as a whole,” says Eveliina Seppälä, Specialist who works in Fingrid’s Strategic Grid Planning unit.
The network vision and the main grid development plan enable
The increase in weather-dependent generation, large new nuclear power plant units, a decrease in the amount of generation that can be readily regulated, the geographic location of new generation facilities in the main grid, and the pace of electrification in society are key trends from the standpoint of network development.
“We have analysed the energy revolution on two time horizons. The main grid development plan describes Fingrid’s development needs for the main grid and the plans until the start of the next decade. The network vision, which we have worked on with stakeholders, looks further into the future: it focuses on 2035, when Finland aims to be carbon-neutral,” Seppälä says.
The most significant variables in the future will be electricity consumption in industry, heating and transport, the generation and location of onshore and offshore wind power, the amount of distributed solar power, the amount of flexibility available from the supply and demand sides, and the future of nuclear power plants.
It is still hard to predict which of the scenarios in the network vision will become a reality, but it is already clear that large-scale wind power generation projects will lead to a significant increase in the need for electricity transmission capacity from northern Finland to the south.
The main grid development plan describes Fingrid’s development needs for the main grid and the plans until the start of the next decade.
The transmission capacity of the grid’s main transmission cross-sections – the Central Finland and Kemi-Oulujoki cross-sections – must be increased by several multiples in order to ensure that Finland remains a single bidding area for electricity trading and enable the same market price for electricity throughout the country.
From the perspective of the main grid, Finland’s target of becoming carbon neutral by 2035 is achievable. Making this possible will require significant investments of approximately EUR 3 billion over the next 15 years.
Fingrid has already updated its development plan on this basis, and it expects to invest about EUR 2 billion in the main grid over the next ten years. If a substantial amount of new, electricity-intensive industry arises in Finland or if Finland becomes an exporter of electricity or fuels produced using electricity, even larger sums will probably need to be invested in the main grid.
Impacts of the hydrogen economy studied
Hydrogen is currently the wild card of energy generation. The hydrogen economy has great potential, and Fingrid is currently evaluating the impacts of this potential on the energy transmission infrastructure in collaboration with Gasgrid Finland Oy, the national gas transmission network.
“Hydrogen is worth producing wherever there is a lot of affordable electricity available, so Finland could be a great place for this purpose. If the hydrogen economy becomes a reality, we need to know how to prepare for it as an electricity transmission company,” Seppälä says.
Electricity consumption will increase even further if products made using electricity, such as hydrogen, are also refined for export, or if affordable clean electricity attracts new industrial investments to Finland, such as data centres and battery factories.
Power system vision starting up
The debate that arose after the network vision was published highlighted the need to consider the entire future of the power system vision under various future scenarios.
We also need to think about the needs that each scenario will place on the power system as a whole, the operation of the system, electricity markets, and the grid.
“The scenarios in the network vision focused on the grid’s hardware requirements. We also need to think about the needs that each scenario will place on the power system as a whole, the operation of the system, electricity markets, and the grid,” Eveliina Seppälä says.
Next year, Fingrid will complete its power system vision, which aims to examine the grid’s requirements and describe the type of development needed in the electricity market to ensure that a carbon-neutral society can materialise.