Environmental impacts and risks of the national renewable energy targets: A review and a qualitative case study from Finland

A. Holma, P. Leskinen, T. Myllyviita (Corresponding Author), K. Manninen, L. Sokka, T. Sinkko, K. Pasanen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    12 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The EU is aiming to increase the utilisation of renewable energy to 20% of the total energy consumption by 2020. For Finland, the target is 38%. Renewable energy sources are assumed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when compared to fossil fuels. Yet not all environmental impacts of renewable energy use are thoroughly assessed, and there are no comprehensive assessments on the impacts and risks of renewable energy production that would take into account all possible environmental impacts. We applied qualitative expert knowledge to attain information on the impacts and risks of renewable energy in Finland. According to the expert panel, the overall impacts of renewable energy by 2020 are not significant. However, we found some hot spot areas, i.e. areas of the most concern related to particulate matter formation during regional wood combustion, climate impacts of forest energy, biodiversity impacts connected to several renewable energy sources, and eutrophication caused by utilisation of agricultural energy sources. There are currently no reliable and generally accepted methods to estimate the biodiversity impacts of renewable energy production, thus, this topic would require further studies. The climate change impacts of forest based energy sources are relatively well studied, but the results of these studies are highly variable because of different assumptions on spatial and time scale. A qualitative impact assessment framework, as described in this paper, can be used to assess the environmental impacts of renewable energy production and is a potential option to attain information on the renewable energy impacts as long as reliable and comparable quantitative datasets are not available. These kinds of qualitative assessments can also be applied to detect the areas that need further studies.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1433-1441
    Number of pages9
    JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
    Volume82
    Early online date2017
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Keywords

    • Energy scenarios
    • Environmental impacts
    • Expert knowledge
    • Qualitative
    • Renewable energy

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