On 20th October 2020, the AgroRES interregional project webinar welcomed nearly 40 participants from 7 different European regions to exchange know-how of renewable energy production and use in agricultural sector. The event, hosted by the Regional Council of North Karelia, was attended by regional and national authorities, municipalities, energy agencies, companies and educational institutions from Spain, Poland, United Kingdom, Finland, Romania, Italy and Ireland. 

Wood-based bioenergy in North Karelia 

The event was dedicated to showcasing renewable energy practices and investments from the region of North Karelia, Finland. The region is known for its expertise in the forestry and bioeconomy sectors. Forests cover around 89 percent of the region’s total land area and are the cornerstone of the region’s business life and industry sector. 

  • They play a central role also in energy production. Nearly half of the energy used in North Karelia comes from wood-based biofuels. Smaller share is generated by biogas and hydro power sources. Currently, the share of renewables of the total energy production in our region is 67 percent. This exceeds the EU and national climate targets, but we aim even higher and want to become completely free from fossil fuels, pointed out Climate and Energy Expert Sari Pitkänen from Regional Council of North Karelia.

Biomass investments  

During the webinar, Bioenergy and Bioeconomy Specialist Urpo Hassinen from the Finnish Forest Center provided a concrete example of utilisation of wood in energy production by introducing community-based Eno Energy Cooperative. The cooperative owns three district heating plants in North Karelia which produce 15,400 MWh of heat annually and use around 27,000 loose cubic meters of locally produced wood chips.  

  • The benefits of these heating plants for the local community are significant. They replace about 2 million litres of oil every year, create direct and indirect employment and reduce net CO2 emissions by 5 million kilograms a year, explained Urpo Hassinen.

Another example of biomass energy production in the region was given by Managing Director Mika Juvonen from BioKymppi biogas plant located in the municipality of Kitee in North Karelia. The plant produces around 10,000 MWh of heat and electricity a year from biogas. Raw materials used in the process include household and supermarket biowaste, manure and food industry waste. In addition to energy, the anaerobic digestion process produces solid and liquid fertilizers that are sold to farmers.  

Projects promoting the use of renewables 

Next, Lecturer Anniina Kontiokorpi from Karelia University of Applied Sciences spoke about the history of renewable energy projects and development in North Karelia. She pointed out that EU co-financed projects are needed to accelerate the energy transition. They can impact on policy development, raise awareness and create new solutions, to name a few. As an example, North Karelia Towards Oil-Free and Low-Carbon Region project implemented joint procurement of photovoltaic systems for households and SMEs in North Karelia.  

  • Through these joint procurement processes, we were able to add a total of 225,2 kWp of solar power to North Karelia, with an estimated annual output of 195 MWh of electricity, stressed Anniina Kontiokorpi.

Projects can also create educational and demonstration platforms which are similar to Sirkkala Energy Park owned by Karelia University of Applied Sciences.  

  • The park includes renewable and self-sufficient heat and electricity technologies, applications and solutions, such as CHP plants, solar collectors and pellet press machine, explained Energy Advisor Anssi Kokkonen from Karelia UAS.

These technological investments have been funded through ERDF. The environment is suited for rapid, practical testing of innovations and renewable energy business development as well as for studying the actual operating and maintenance costs of the various forms of energy production.  

At the end of the webinar, participants were invited to join a workshop to evaluate renewable energy practices found from different European regions. These practices are available here: www.interregeurope.eu/agrores/good-practices/

Webinar presentations:

Presentation of Climate and Energy Expert Sari Pitkänen, Regional Council of North Karelia. 

        Presentation of Bioenergy and Bioeconomy         Specialist Urpo Hassinen, the Finnish Forest         Center

    Presentation of Managing Director Mika Juvonen,     BioKymppi Ltd.

Presentation of Lecturer Anniina Kontiokorpi, Karelia University of Applied Sciences

        Presentation of Energy Advisor Anssi Kokkonen,         Karelia University of Applied Sciences