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The critical role of green hydrogen and P2X in Finland’s energy transition

Published on: February 22, 2024

Green hydrogen and innovative technologies such as Power-to-X (P2X) are cornerstones of the worldwide transition away from fossil fuels, a critical move in the fight against climate change. The issue isn’t whether they will see industrial-scale adoption, but rather when.

Erkki Härö, Energy Transformation Driver at Sweco, believes that Finland has the infrastructure in place to lead the way if investments are made.

“Power-to-X and hydrogen will play an important role in the green transition,” he says. “It will enable Finland to reach its ambitious emission targets, but the possibilities are even wider: A well-functioning hydrogen economy and solutions can be both a know-how and product-based export asset for Finland.”

The role of P2X in evolving energy landscape

Power-to-X is an umbrella term for various processes that convert electricity, especially from renewable sources, into other forms of energy carriers or raw materials. The “X” can represent several different end products, such as hydrogen (power-to-hydrogen), methane (power-to-gas), liquid fuels like methanol or synthetic diesel (power-to-liquid), or even chemicals and materials.

Amidst this energy transition, P2X technology has garnered attention for its role in converting renewable electricity into various forms of energy and back to electricity as needed. This versatility makes it a key player in addressing the storage and flexibility challenges associated with the increasing production of renewable energy.

“The challenge facing electricity distribution is that electricity cannot be stored. Renewable electricity is not produced and consumed simultaneously, meaning that flexibility in production and consumption is key,” Härö says.

Illustration of green energy production

Photo Credit: GettyImages / audiundwerbung

Sweco designs Finland’s first plant

Sweco is designing a P2X Solutions green hydrogen production plant in the Harjavalta Industrial Park. The facility, scheduled to be completed in 2024, will become the first industrial-scale green hydrogen production plant in Finland. This 20-megawatt P2X facility will turn renewable energy into hydrogen fuel.

The Harjavalta plant is estimated to reduce Finland’s CO2 emissions by 40,000 tonnes annually, the equivalent of removing around 20,000 gasoline-powered cars from the roads. Hydrogen and synthetic fuels refined from the plant, such as methane, play a key role in adapting energy-intensive road transport, aviation and sea shipping to stricter emission limits.

The plant is just one of several projects that are underway. Other similar projects have not yet reached construction phase. Similar facilities will be able to reduce CO2 by even higher quantities in the future, which illustrates the potential that P2X and green hydrogen have in the race towards carbon-neutrality.

Why Finland can lead the way

Finland aims to be carbon neutral by 2035, an ambitious goal compared to the European Union’s target of 2050. To be successful, the Finnish government has approved a plan in which Finland aims to produce at least 10 per cent of all green hydrogen within the EU by 2030. It is estimated that the amount of hydrogen used in Finland, which currently stands at approximately 140 kilotons per year, will be doubled within the next 10–15 years.

The hydrogen industry represents a number of great opportunities for Finland, thanks to the country’s low carbon electricity production capacity and powerful electrical grid. Additionally, Finland has great potential for expanding wind power, which in turn means a substantial increase in production capacity for hydrogen and electro fuels for both domestic use and foreign export.

Illustration of green energy production

Photo Credit: GettyImages / Gri-spb

With all this in place, Finland has an opportunity to become energy independent if the necessary investments are made, according to Härö.

“We have been using fossil fuels here in Finland for quite a long time but we have never had the possibility to be independent on energy, but now, for the first time, we have the possibility for that if we don’t screw it up.”

The state of the global economy has meant that less money has been spent on hydrogen initiatives in recent years. If the trend continues, it could have far-reaching consequences for Finland’s energy ambitions, Härö warns.

“If we don’t get these hydrogen investments in place, there will be less investments into wind power and that will create a circle that we cannot break easily. It is possible, but it will be more difficult,” he argues. “If we take two years away, it will take more than two years to get back up. If we lose that time then I don’t think we will be in pole position any more, somebody else will take that spot.”

Sweco’s experts have wide-ranging experience from green hydrogen projects, ranging from early-stage planning to designing production plants, storage and transport solutions — both in Finland and in our other business areas. Sweco’s in-depth expertise in Power-to-X technologies, electrolysis and carbon capture enable experts to create innovative green hydrogen solutions.

“As always, there may be bumps along the way, but in the long term I am convinced that hydrogen will play a key role in managing climate change. There is demand for solutions around the world,” Härö concludes.

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