Background of the research

The significance of bioenergy and other renewable energy in energy production is growing. Simultaneously, the value of biomass as a raw material in other areas of bioeconomy is increasing.

The use of renewable energy sources is increasing at an accelerating pace, as countries strive to reach global climate goals. Solar and wind energy will rise to an important role, but the total energy system cannot rely solely on them, as their production varies depending on the weather. There is a need for reliable, adjustable energy sources, i.e. energy in which production can be controlled flexibly. Bioenergy offers a solution that meets two important criteria: biomass used as fuel is renewable, and it can be stored. Also, the locality of biomass, such as logging residues, can be considered as an advantage.

“The optimal combination of bioenergy and other renewable forms of energy will be sought after strongly in the coming years. In addition, the production of bioenergy must be examined as a part of bioeconomy, not just in the energy system context,” emphasizes BEST program manager Kaisu Leppänen from Spinverse Innovation Management Oy. Recent innovations promise an increasingly diverse use of biomass, e.g. as a raw material for material applications, which is expected to increase competition on biomass. At best, the various uses of biomass complement each other and the overall value will grow following the principles of sustainable development.

“It is increasingly important to ensure that all bioenergy concepts and value chains are sustainable and better than fossil energy options. Sustainability is a key objective of the international energy policies, and thus a prerequisite for bioenergy. Pioneering in sustainability can also be a competitive advantage for a company”, Leppänen says.

Finnish bioenergy has a solid foundation in forests. Logging residues are harvested, chipped and transported in a cost-effective way to bio-based power plants and biorefineries, and the by-products of the wood processing industry are utilized as sources of energy. The Finnish know-how in these fields is world-class. Finland also holds an internationally leading position as a developer and utilizer of combined heat and power production.

“In addition to the strong technology and logistics know-how, we need to strengthen our ability to manage large entities, as well as increase our understanding of new operating environments, in order to create new successful concepts”, Leppänen points out. She expects that the best practices for procurement, logistics and bioenergy production can also be applied in other countries, and in addition to forest biomass, also to other biomasses, which will inevitably grow in importance.

Finland’s bioeconomy strategy (2014) aspires to create:

  • competitive and sustainable bioeconomy solutions to global problems
  • new business in both the domestic and international markets

Priorities of the Strategy:

  • To create a competitive business environment for the growth of bioeconomy
  • To create new bioeconomy business by means of venture financing, bold experimentation and crossing over industry borders
  • To renew the knowledge base of bioeconomy by developing education and research activities
  • To secure the availability of biomass, the functioning of raw-material markets, and the sustainability of biomass use

Finland’s energy and climate strategy (2016) outlines concrete actions and objectives that enable Finland to a) reach the energy and climate targets set in the Government Program and by the EU by 2030, and b) continue on a consistent path towards carbon neutral society in 2050.

Bioeconomy and clean solutions in the Government Program

The Government of Finland has defined objectives related to bioeconomy and clean solutions to be achieved by 2025, by means of spearhead projects. They include, e.g.:

  • Cost-efficient carbon-free, clean and renewable energy
    • The use of emission-free, renewable energy will be increased sustainably, so that its share in the 2020s will rise to more than 50% and the self-sufficiency ratio to over 55%
  • Wood on the move and new products from the forest
    • Diversifying the use of wood, and adding its use by 15 million cubic meters per year and increasing the processing value.