”These pictures break the byproduct myth of the bioenergy industry,” says the campaigner who documented energy wood

Press Release 24 January 2024

Finnish bioenergy plants burn a lot of wood that should not be burned according to the speeches of the bioenergy industry. This is evident from the photos published by the Ei polteta tulevaisuutta campaign, which were taken at 18 different locations around Finland.

The environmental campaign Ei polteta tulevaisuutta ”Let’s not burn our future” has today published dozens of photos from its journeys around Finland, the purpose of which was to find out what kind of wood Finnish bioenergy companies burn. According to campaign coordinator Varpu Sairinen, the images reveal a blatant contradiction between the marketing communications of bioenergy companies and the reality.

”We wanted to find out if the bioenergy industry follows its own marketing slogans, according to which mainly the byproducts of the forest industry are being burned for energy. We had expected to find some amounts of other wood, but our findings were much wilder than expected. We think these pictures published today break the byproduct myth of the bioenergy industry,” says Sairinen.

The side product myth can be seen, for example, on the website of the bioenergy industry interest organization Bioenergia ry. According to the organization, ”Energy wood is not grown separately in Finland’s forests, but by-products of logging, forest management and the forest industry are used to produce energy.” According to Bioenergia, by-products are e.g. stumps, bark, sawdust and ”wood unsuitable for industry”.

”In all the places we visited, we found plenty of material wood, i.e. pulp and log wood, which could have been used in many other industries. We also found rotten wood and aspen at each site, which according to the forest industry’s own rules should be left in the forest,” says Sairinen.

Since last February, Sairinen and the photographer of the campaign visited 16 different locations located in 11 municipalities. Today, the campaign has published pictures from these locations and from two other locations documented by others. The locations are energy wood terminals and bioenergy plants.

Of the places that Sairinen and the photographer visited, a few were wood chipping terminals, where more than energy wood is chipped. However, most of the targets were energy wood terminals, where only wood that is going to be burned for energy is stored.

”Many piles also had markings that specifically classified the wood as energy wood. So we think for sure that the majority of all the material wood we photographed was on its way to the oven.”

”All this is at risk”

Sairinen finds the material published today worrying in many ways.

”Contrary to what bioenergy companies advertise, burning wood is in no way environmentally friendly. Wood’s carbon dioxide emissions are in the same category as coal, and the climate effects do not end there. When forests are cut down, our carbon sinks shrink even more. We cannot afford this, because the sinks have already collapsed and turned into sources of emissions.”

According to the Finnish Natural Resources Agency, the maximum sustainable logging volume in terms of Finland’s carbon dioxide balance would be 68.7 million cubic meters per year, but e.g. in 2022, 76.3 million cubic meters were cut from Finland’s forests. 60% of the logged wood biomass is in the end burned for energy, and according to the EU’s climate panel, the burning of biomass endangers Europe’s carbon sinks.

”Finland will not achieve the Carbon Neutral Finland 2035 goal of the climate law if we keep burning the trees we log, in which case the carbon sequestered in them is immediately released into the atmosphere. Even more important than the law is that we Finns have a safe and healthy living environment with green forests. All of this is at risk if we continue to burn our forests at this scale,” says Sairinen.

The campaign demands that Finland stops supporting wood energy burning with tax breaks and renewable energy subsidies from the EU. According to the campaign, these subsidies should only be given to emission-free forms of energy. In addition, the EU must remove forest biomass from the renewable energy targets and from the list of renewable energy sources in the EU Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC).

”The classification as a renewable form of energy is problematic, because it takes tens of years for trees to regenerate. We don’t have that much time, to curb the climate crisis we need carbon sinks now. Besides, the forests are much more than just wood. They are an ecosystem that also includes understory plants and animals. If the loss of nature caused by overlogging progresses to the point where our species become extinct and ecosystems collapse, they will not regenerate.”

Sairinen wants to emphasize that the campaign does not demand an end to all wood burning.

”Finns are still allowed to heat their saunas and fireplaces with wood, but in large-scale energy production, we must switch to emission-free solutions as soon as possible.”

More information:

Varpu Sairinen
Ei polteta tulevaisuutta
Tel: +358 400 907 133
Email: info@eipoltetatulevaisuutta.fi

Pictures and information from the locations:

More free to publish pictures for media:
(credit the pictures for Ei polteta tulevaisuutta

Campaign website: https://eipoltetatulevaisuutta.fi