Fortum in Finnish Wonderland

FinnishNews

There are three Finnish energy companies that have the Finnish government as the main owner, and all are up to their eyeballs in fossil fuels!

“So much for those Super CleanTech Nordics,” you may say! 

These companies, Fortum, Neste and Gasum have been involved in fossil fuels since time immemorial. Back in the old days, many Finnish factories were furiously busy using huge amounts of energy to manufacture paper, pulp from our forests and refine metals like steel and copper that were being mined from our land. Having Russia as a neighbour was useful because we were able to receive millions of barrels of their crude oil delivered directly to our back door by rail…

… And since we needed a refinery to secure our transport fuel supplies, the government stepped in with establishing Neste to build one.

The forestry and mining companies also needed a huge supplies of energy and the government and bigger cities thoughtfully decided to develop the energy markets with big nuclear power projects, hydroelectric dams, and fossil fuel plants sprinkled around the country. This is also a country with bitterly cold winters that can last for months so energy security is regarded to be an important public good rather than a profit maximising business. 

Now, many decades later, we still have cold winters but fewer big energy gulping industries. However, the government here always wants to be seen to be doing the right thing, and Climate Change is now a top priority – or so we thought, until Fortum, a big energy company where the government has a major shareholding, started to make new inroads into fossil fuels by deciding to buy the German company called Uniper. That was when we begun to scratch our heads and say like Alice did in her Wonderland, “Curiouser and curiouser!”

Fortum is a Finnish stock exchange company where the government is a 50.8% shareholder. It has a long history in nuclear power, hydro power, district heating, and electricity generated with fossil fuels and biomass.

A few years ago, Fortum started buying a majority interest in Uniper when its former owner, E.oN, a German utility wanted to get out of the fossil fuel business to be “Green”. This started badly because Uniper’s management was upset to have Fortum as a shareholder. They regarded Fortum to be just a smaller Finnish energy company that could not support Uniper’s grander global plans. They even questioned the merger with newspaper advertisements – asking why would a company like Fortum, that talks a lot about Cleantech, want to get its hands dirty with fossil fuels the life and soul of Uniper?

Even today, several years later, as a majority owned Fortum company, Uniper still has no qualms about their future in fossil fuels because they proudly present the following diagram on their website. They have a plan to reduce emissions in Europe by 2035, but it is not exactly clear if this will be achieved, and there is very little written about their plans to reduce their emissions in Russian:

Fortum cries out on their website that they will be “Greener” and “More Sustainable”. When they purchased Uniper’s shares, they stated that the investment in Uniper was justified because Uniper’s profits would drive their future investments in Climate Change transition. However, the immediate effect of the acquisition is that Fortum have considerably more fossil fuel business activities and a lot more risk centred in Russia! Furthermore, Uniper is one of the partners in the NordStream pipeline that will, if finished, be delivering fossil fuel gas from Russia to Germany for many years to come…

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