Regional Council of Ostrobothnia supports the region in the green transition
In the last ten years, the region of Ostrobothnia on the west coast of Finland has experienced a real wind power boom. This is no coincidence – like most coasts, the region is windy, and what is more, the authorities in the region have been very forethoughtful in paving the way for wind power.
“When making the previous regional land use plan, we made sure to reserve several areas for wind power. The plan turned out to be a good one, as most of these areas today have wind power farms on them, or there are farms planned to be constructed”, explains Ann Holm, Regional Planning Director at the Regional Council of Ostrobothnia.
Although only 3 percent of the Finnish population live in the region, 14 percent of the Finnish wind power is produced here. What is more, that share is expected to grow, as even more areas have been reserved for wind power in the new regional land use plan currently under development. Some of these are sea areas for large offshore farms. “When making a regional land use plan, you sort of try to predict the future. The new plan goes all the way to 2050, and our job is to figure out what the society will look like then and what needs for land use there will be. Green energy production is of course a core area, and in that respect, wind power is essential”, Holm says.
Although only 3% of the Finns live in the region, 14% of the Finnish wind power is produced here
The rapid growth of wind power is a good example of how the Regional Council can support the green transition. It is also a good example of how the Council has been a pioneer in smart specialisation.
The region of Ostrobothnia is in many ways exceptional as it is very export oriented – 70 percent of the industrial production is exported. What is more, a big share of that production is energy technology, as the region is home to the biggest energy technology cluster in the Nordic countries.
“This means that we have all the prerequisites for the green transition. Finland has a goal of becoming carbon neutral in 2035, and we are committed to that goal”, explains Business Manager Niklas Ulfvens at the Regional Council.
The Regional Council creates the conditions for the region’s development while companies and municipalities make the final investment decisions. What then does the Council do to support the green transition, in addition to making sure there are enough areas reserved for wind power? One thing is making sure the education matches the needs of the companies.
“Our region is exceptional because the amount of R&D is so high. Most of this R&D is carried out within the companies, however, they cooperate closely with our universities and other educational actors. Together we seek education and research actions that support the green transition, as there will be an increased demand for know-how in areas such as circular economy and battery technology”, says Johanna Dahl, Regional Development Expert. She continues:
Our job is to figure out what society will look like in 2050
“We are lucky to have international companies in this region that are interested in regional development and in cooperating both with the authorities and with the educational institutions. I would say this is a true strength of ours.”
The EU has a clear vision of how the green transition is to be carried out – it should be done on a regional level. The idea is to accelerate innovations, as well as private and public investments, that support the European Green Deal initiative. One upcoming initiative is the establishment of 100 European Regional Innovation Valleys, where Ostrobthnia definitely has a place.
“When thinking about our large supply of wind power, our expertise in energy technology, as well as our ability to cooperate with research institutions, I would say we are quite well positioned for green investments”, Niklas Ulfvens states. “What we need now are living lab environments where new ideas can be tested and research carried out. The challenge is that the speed of the transition is accelerating – there is no time to be wasted.”