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Study: Forest industry mills could near carbon-neutrality target by 2035

FINLAND (From news reports) -- A new study by the Pöyry consulting firm estimates that Finnish forest industry mills could almost completely replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources by the year 2035.

At present, these mills use mainly natural gas and peat, but also small amounts of oil and coal, for the production of the steam needed in paper and paperboard production.

The burning of fossil fuels by the Finnish forest products industry generated just slightly less than three million tons of CO2 emissions in 2018. That was around five percent of the nation's total.

Fredrik Blomfelt, who manages environmental affairs for the Finnish Forest Industries Federation, says that the sector's energy needs could be met through the use of renewable sources, increased energy efficiency, and the further electrification of mill processes.

According to the Federation, the situation in the sector in Finland is already better than the average in competing countries. In 2018, fossil fuels supplied only 14 percent of the energy used in wood processing in Finland. The average for the sector in Europe was 40 percent.

At present there is still a good deal of diversity in energy sources used by forestry industry mills. Some had already successfully eliminated fossil fuels.

For example, Metsä Group´s new bioproduct mill in Äänekoski, which it bills as the largest wood-processing plant in the Northern Hemisphere, uses no fossil fuels. The facility actually generates more bioenergy than it requires for its own production.

Some other mills, however, are facing major investments in order to reduce carbon emissions.

Finnish Forest Industries Federation CEO Timo Jaatinen says that the state should take steps to promote the use of electricity in wood processing. In this context, he commended the government for its recent decision to cut taxes on electricity used by industries to the minimum allowed under EU regulations. In addition, the state has eliminated tax returns paid to large companies for the use of fossil heating fuels.

According to Jaatinen, the forestry industry sector is ready to switch to non-fossil fuels, as long as it is given a reasonable period of time to make the transition.

Additionally, the forest industry is pressing the state to continue to compensate industries for extra costs caused by the EU emissions trading scheme. The government intends to review emissions compensation during budget talks next autumn.

The Pöyry consulting firm's study was commissioned by Finnish Forest Industries Federation as a part of Finland's policy targeting zero net carbon emissions by 2035. Similar studies are being carried out in all industrial sectors.


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