Fingrid’s operations have a significant positive impact on the environment and climate. By reinforcing the electricity transmission grid for the needs of clean electricity production, we help Finland reach its climate goals. When building and maintaining the main grid, we take landowners and other stakeholders into account, and we reduce environmental impacts at all stages of the main grid’s life cycle in accordance with Fingrid’s land-use and environmental policy. Key aspects include a thorough environmental impact assessment (EIA) and preparedness for environmental risks. Our reserve power plants have an ISO 14001 environmental certification.
Image: Fingrid’s key environmental impacts
2019 was a memorable year in terms of climate and environmental issues. The European Parliament declared a global climate emergency. Weather phenomena affected people all over the world. The Government Programme contained the goal of a carbon neutral Finland in 2035. We are one of the key players in Finland’s energy and climate policy, as the transmission grid under Fingrid’s responsibility must be sufficient to enable Finland to reach its climate goals. We must succeed in connecting clean power to the main grid and also ensure its secure transmission from electricity producers to consumers.
Several grid projects are underway to strengthen the main grid. In order take into account environmental impacts, environmental reports were drawn up on transmission line projects with minor impacts in Muhos and Simo and from Oulu to Ii. An EIA was conducted to assess the human and environmental impacts of the transmission line project from Huittinen to Forssa and the transmission lines for Sweden’s third AC connection from Muhos via Keminmaa to Ylitornio. We informed local residents beyond statutory practices through land-owner letters and local newspaper ads, and the projects were presented in three public events that were open to all. Involving landowners is very important in terms of ensuring that the power line adapts to the environment, taking into account various perspectives and stakeholders.
We committed the external contractors and service providers responsible for the grid to environmentally responsible operating practices in line with Fingrid’s land-use and environmental policy through contractual terms, training and audits. All personnel working at Fingrid’s work sites completed online training on environmental matters. Service providers received environmental training when investment projects were started, and environmental aspects were monitored at the work site as part of work site monitoring. Compliance with environmental requirements, occupational safety and contractor obligations were verified in a total of nine audits. Two audits on overall safety and several audits related to the ISO 14001 environmental management system were carried out at reserve power plants.
Our goal is to complete grid investment projects and maintenance without any significant environmental deviations. No significant environmental damage occurred during the year under review, but one incident classified as significant that had occurred in the previous year surfaced during the year, where dismantled conductor material was ground up and spread into the surroundings by the tracks of a harvester, over an area of around three hectares. The surroundings have been cleaned and the landowner will be compensated for the damage. Materials from work sites were recycled as efficiently as possible when building new grid sections and substations or dismantling old structures. In 2019, co-operation with a new material recycling service provider was begun. In addition to careful sorting, our goal is to improve logistics related to material transports and to develop investment project processes so that, for example, concrete and brick could be utilised increasingly in civil engineering. The total volume of waste during the year was approximately 13,920 tonnes, of which 98 per cent was utilised in some way and 89 per cent was recycled.
Image: Material volumes generated by Fingrid’s operations in 2019
In order to be able to build, operate and maintain a transmission line, Fingrid expropriates a right-of-use to the transmission line area. An expropriation permit ruling was given for the Forest Line, Pyhänselkä-Nuojuankangas, Kontiolahti–Uimaharju and Imatra-Huutokoski transmission lines. An expropriation permit application was submitted for the transmission line projects Pyhänselkä–Nuojuankangas, Imatra–Huutokoski and Kontiolahti–Palojärvi. The expropriation compensation process was completed for the transmission line projects Lieto–Forssa and Elovaara–Pinsiö. Nine hearings in accordance with the Finnish Expropriation Act were held with landowners.
In accordance with our land-use and environment policy, our goal is successful interaction with landowners and neighbours of transmission line right-of-ways. We conducted landowner surveys on our finished transmission line projects during the year and our grades were good at 3.6–4.3 (on a scale of 1–5). Landowners’ development expectations were related to communication and agreements concerning the use of access roads, the moving around of our site teams and the progress of the work.
We instructed service providers working on power line maintenance and trimming vegetation to take landowners and natural sites into account and to take care of waste and chemicals. Using the power line right-of-ways, we can also protect biodiversity, which is decreasing worldwide. The right-of-ways are cleared regularly to be open and light and can act as a replacement habitat for species threatened by disappearing meadows or the drainage of peatlands. In a bid to increase the utilisation of right-of-ways, we offered landowners information both in connection with our projects and through our other communications initiatives and we granted them initial funding for managing the right-of-ways as heritage habitats. We also created a new idea card for the landscaping of right-of-ways in yard areas.
People are concerned about the electromagnetic fields in the vicinity of our power lines. We updated our communications material to correspond with the legislation amended in late 2018, which concerns the protection of the public from non-ionised radiation from the electromagnetic fields of power lines. We continued to publish, jointly with an independent expert party, status reports on global, medically oriented research on electromagnetic fields. There is no new, conflicting evidence of the health impacts.
Fingrid actively participates in land-use planning to ensure safety and land-use reservations for the grid. In 2019, Fingrid issued about 240 statements on land-use plans and environmental impact assessments. In addition, we directed the construction and operations taking place near grid installations by issuing roughly 440 statements that included safety instructions and land-use restrictions. We were also part of the stakeholder forum for the total reform of the Land Use and Building Act and in the monitoring group for the amendment of the Finnish Expropriation Act.
The construction and use of the main grid necessary for the achievement of the climate goals result in emissions. Fingrid has been reporting on its climate impacts according to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHGP) since 2011. In 2019, we disclosed the business risks and opportunities related to climate change also in accordance with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures framework. In our TCFD fact sheet we have compiled our climate goals and information on how climate change impacts are taken into account in Fingrid’s administration, strategy and risk management.
In 2019, altogether 132 megawatts of wind power were connected to Fingrid’s main grid, which will indirectly avoid emissions worth around 72,000 carbon dioxide equivalent tonnes in the coming years. In addition, Fingrid concluded during the year agreements on connecting a total of approximately 2,000 megawatts of wind power production to the electricity grid. Once realised, this will lead to a substantial positive climate impact, indirectly avoiding emissions worth around 1.1 million carbon dioxide equivalent tonnes.
Image: Fingrid’s carbon handprint
Image: Fingrid’s greenhouse gas emissions
Fingrid’s carbon dioxide emissions in 2019 totalled approximately 220,000 carbon dioxide equivalent tonnes. Roughly 0.4 per cent of Finland’s greenhouse gas emissions are our emissions. We joined the energy efficiency agreement of Finnish industries for 2017–2025, originally with a target of cutting energy use by six per cent. In 2019, we set 12.9 per cent in energy savings as our overall target, as the original target was already exceeded during the first two agreement years through the power increase investments and changes to the anti-icing system at the Forssa reserve power plant as well as transmission line construction and upgrades.
The majority of our emissions (approx. 96%) were caused indirectly by the electricity production required to replace power losses taking place during electricity transmission. We minimise losses by making energy-efficient grid investments and equipment procurements and by developing the power system for the addition of renewable electricity generation to the main grid. The transmission loss carbon footprint will be reduced when the electricity production structure changes and the grid investments necessitated by the changes are carried out. During the year under review, we also added real-time power production carbon emissions data to the status of the Finnish power system.
In addition, greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the reserve power plants used in serious disturbances of the power system and by the powerful greenhouse gas used in substation equipment, sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). Our SF6 gas emissions were approximately 45 (21) kilograms. At the end of 2019, there was a total of approximately 46 (44) tonnes of SF6 gas at our substations, and the long-term annual leakage rate has been very low, less than 0.2 per cent on average, representing the top results of the international ITOMS comparison.
Other indirect emissions resulted from business travel and procurements. We developed our related emissions reporting as especially the production of aluminium and steel for power line towers and conductors is energy intensive. The material procurements (towers, conductors and foundations) for the approximately 150 new transmission line kilometres taken into use in 2019, resulted in emissions of some 40,000 carbon dioxide equivalent tonnes.