“We want to be self-sufficient in energy production”

It represents the country that has proposed to be energy self-sufficient and be carbon negative in 2040, – the most ambitious in the European Union -, which promotes urban centralized heating systems, advances in the development of smart cities and in preserving one of its natural resources most valuable, the forests.

Will they be carbon neutral in 2035 and negative in 2040?

We are very confident that it will be possible to achieve these objectives, the most ambitious of the European Union. We have been on that path since 2020 and many things are being done. Such as the production of energy with more sustainable solutions, using waste from the forestry industry to produce heating, advancing the use of renewable energy for transportation. It all adds up. There are only 11 years left, but we are very determined and convinced that we cannot fail.

They also have very high targets for renewable energy. In solar specifically.

The main issue is that, as we do not have raw materials such as gas or oil, as well as being carbon neutral, we want to be totally independent in energy production. Wind power already represents 17% of energy; In fact, Finland is one of the countries in the European Union that is investing the most in this technology. Solar is currently a very small percentage, but it is increasing. It is true that in winter not much solar energy is produced; But, if you take into account the whole year, since in summer the sun almost does not set, with the panels properly oriented it can produce solar energy. And by having large sparsely populated areas, reconciliation with landscape needs can be resolved. In addition, we are also looking for solutions for wind and solar energy storage. Surely we will find them.

In the south of Europe the effects of climate change are already being experienced, how are they experiencing it in the north?

There we are also already seeing some consequences. The first is the uncertainty about the snow. Before, every year all of Finland was covered in snow, from October to the end of April, with some differences between the north and the south, which is on the coast. Today, even in Lapland, there is no such security. It is a problem for nature and also for tourism, a very important economic activity there because Lapland is a very magical destination. Another phenomenon is also occurring: now there is less snow, but more rain. But it does not fall vertically, but horizontally. And it is a problem because the walls of the buildings do not hold up. Suddenly, we have to start building differently. They are unexpected things.

What they would expect would be the rise in temperatures.

That's how it is. When I was a child and teenager, temperatures usually never exceeded 30 degrees. Nowadays, every summer we have more than 30 for at least a couple of weeks. So, yes, it is very noticeable.

What is the main challenge for decarbonization?

Maybe mobility. Traffic is 20% of our entire carbon footprint and 95% is road traffic. But it is not easy to reduce the use of private cars to travel in remote and less populated areas, because Finland is a country with a lot of area, few people and very long, with 1,300 kilometers from end to end. To change the paradigm, the basis for changing is the type of energy in automobiles. 35% of the new cars registered are electric, and biofuels are being widely developed. Furthermore, in urban areas attempts are made to reduce the use of private cars with more public transport, bicycles and walking, of course. We use the bicycle a lot, even in winter. I move like this when I'm there, I just have to change the tires to avoid slipping; because, yes, there is a lot of ice on the streets.

One issue in which they have made a lot of progress is in the decarbonization of heating, with urban heat networks.

Not having raw materials, we have had to use other types of energy production and be very efficient. That is why waste from the forestry industry is very important. Today this industry can generate more energy than it consumes, because it optimizes production in such a way that, in each phase, it recovers all the heat it generates and uses it as a source of energy. Just like supercomputing centers. All the heat they produce is collected and used for district heating in all parts of the country. We don't let anything be lost.

Does the development of smart cities harmonize well with the conservation of their own characteristics?

That often means things happen without us almost realizing it. It implies that there are fewer cars and more public transport, bicycles or walkers. This makes cities more comfortable and with better air quality, not different aesthetically. Energy efficiency is not seen, but it lowers the electricity bill of the municipalities.


From Erasmus to ambassador

Ambassador to Spain since September 2021, between her first assignment in Ethiopia in 2005 and the current one, Sari Rautio's diplomatic career has passed between Moscow, Brussels and various positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Helsinki. She is the official face of her country in Spain. Therefore, the range of her obligations is wide: from working with Business Finland so that the most cutting-edge Finnish companies open a market here, to visiting the large community of compatriots residing in Torrevieja. As a good Finn, she is a fan and practitioner of orienteering sports and she demonstrated her level when, as a young Erasmus student in Granada, she participated in a race there. She won it.