NewsBusiness

Leadership is the central catalyst for Finland’s offshore wind power development 

Published:31.05.2024
Tags: 
  • Åland,
  • co-operation,
  • Finland,
  • offshore wind power,
  • sustainability

In the fast-growing field of offshore wind energy, the recent Wind Finland Offshore event at Pikku-Finlandia, Helsinki brought together 350 participants: developers, investors, port authorities, logistics professionals, ship operators, surveyors, legislative bodies, environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGO) and other key stakeholders.

As Regional Manager at Ilmatar, I had the great honour of hosting the event and thus actively joined the discussions, crystallised around one central thesis: the market response to the emerging offshore wind sector depends on decisive leadership and a well-articulated national strategic vision. 

Two presentations stood out among the many excellent ones given; Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG) and Vestas Northern followed with a panel discussion on the need for ports and logistics.

BSAG is a well-known ENGO in Finland, a non-profit foundation that takes concrete actions to protect the Baltic Sea. Anna Klemelä presented that BSAG supports offshore wind construction in the Gulf of Bothnia, as this is a direct mean to curb the massive biodiversity loss and deoxygenation that stems from rapidly increasing climate change. Anna also pointed out that developers must acknowledge the biodiversity hotspots found in this unique water body, as these endemic species grow slowly but also ensure carbon sequestration and improve water quality. These hot spots should be viewed as allies in development and not as problems when planning offshore wind and cable corridors.

Keld Kristensen from Vestas Northern shared key insights from more than a decade of working in offshore wind logistics, leading a team of specialists in CTV, C/SOV, helicopter, and port operations. He stressed the need to have the right infrastructure ready to support new offshore markets’ ambitious development plans. Particular attention should be paid to the need for suitable ports.

In the panel discussion that followed, Sarens’ Enrika Uusitalo emphasized that “we are not competing in this build-out of infrastructure and logistics services, we are working together” and much inspiration was drawn from the development of the ports of Eemshaven, key insights shared by Erik Bertholet. Seppo Ihalainen, Head of the Pori Offshore Wind Hub said that Finland has ports that are ready to start their expansion when they get a clear signal from the market to muscle up.

The nexus between leadership and market response 

As we navigate the complexities of the clean energy transition, it is increasingly evident that leadership is not just a facilitator but a critical catalyst. The conversations at the event underscored a recurring theme: without bold, clear, and strategic leadership, the myriad components of the offshore wind sector remain disparate pebbles. Only the power of leadership can transform these pebbles into an avalanche of change. 

Leadership in this context goes beyond formulating political visions and sizzling business concepts. It involves setting a clear roadmap for where, when and how offshore wind projects will be developed.

The link between industrial development and national prosperity 

The direct link between strategic offshore wind development and long-term national economic benefits, such as increased GDP and labour migration was highlighted in the event. By effectively leveraging offshore wind opportunities, Finland can significantly boost its industrial development and secure long-term prosperity. This is not just about energy production but about cultivating a robust industrial ecosystem that supports all phases of the project lifecycle and enhances the country’s economic standing on the global stage. The ripple effect surrounding offshore wind, or any major infrastructure industry of similar scale has not gone unnoticed by already established offshore regions and countries.

Minimising costs and maximising efficiency 

The panel discussions emphasized the need for the market to adapt rapidly to the technological and operational requirements of offshore wind projects. There is a clear need for a ‘take-off’ strategy that focuses on the immediate deployment of projects and ensures long-term sustainability and efficiency. Leadership must guide and inspire cross-sectoral collaboration to minimise redundancies and optimise resource allocation. 

The need for education and workforce

All big transitions require people of all career and life stages. The workforce and know-how associated with offshore wind and off-taker industries must be routed immediately. This is not only novel vocational and university degrees but also re-training the existing workforce to prepare them for the rapid increase of labor demand the clean energy transition requires. Strategic leadership should, therefore, also focus on policies that attract and retain top talent from around the world and integrate these skilled individuals into Finland’s industrial fabric. 

New legislation on offshore wind development in EEZ in Finland

Late last week, the much-awaited legislation draft on offshore wind power development in Finland’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) was released stipulating a somewhat clear path for offshore wind power in EEZ. The government will select specific areas within the EEZ for offshore wind development. The process for awarding exploitation licenses will be competitive. This approach aims to ensure that only the most suitable operators, who can manage the development efficiently and responsibly, are selected to lead these projects. The proposed legislation represents a significant step by Finland in actively shaping the development of its renewable energy landscape, demonstrating a firm commitment to economic growth and environmental sustainability in the energy sector.

Conclusion

As we stand on the doorstep of a major energy and industrial transformation, the call to action for Finland’s leaders is clear. The market is ready to respond forcefully to the challenges and opportunities the offshore wind sector presents. However, it will ultimately take decisive, informed, and visionary leadership to ignite this potential. Indeed, many small pebbles are ready to be moved; with strategic leadership, these can trigger an avalanche of transformative change that will bring Finland to the forefront of the industry.

Anna Häger, Regional Manager

Tags: 
  • Åland,
  • co-operation,
  • Finland,
  • offshore wind power,
  • sustainability

Anna Häger

Regional Manager, Åland

anna.hager@ilmatar.com