As in so many other companies in 2020, also at Westenergy the year will be remembered especially for the corona pandemic, and it seems that the pandemic will continue to have its effects on the society long after 2020. Westenergy has a critical role in the society as we secure the functionality of both waste management and local energy production. When the pandemic broke out last year, we needed to make quick decisions to be able to secure the health and safety of our employees and, thus, the core functions of the company. The office staff started working at home, the plant visits were put on hold, and social distance was kept at the workplace to prevent the spread of the virus – only to mention few means how the pandemic changed our everyday work. I want to thank our staff for excellent work effort and resilience during the corona pandemic. It seems that we have done the right things, but it is very important to stick with the new rules and ways of working as long it takes for the pandemic to end.
We secure the functionality of both waste management and local energy production.
Although the pandemic changed working life in many ways, we were able to secure the core functions of the company. In 2020, Westenergy’s newest owner company Loimi-Hämeen Jätehuolto started delivering waste to the plant which means that now we refine into energy the non-recyclable waste of some half a million people in Finland, that is, 194 000 tonnes of community waste in 2020. I want to thank all our owner companies for good cooperation and active work in developing circular economy.
In 2020, we focused on getting the plant operate as efficiently as possible and with the best possible availability rate. We were able to see the benefits of the flue gas scrubber and we are very happy with the results. The flue gases are now cleaner than ever, and the scrubber bought an extra 55 gigawatt-hours of energy to the district heat production. In 2020, we produced approximately 60 percent of district heating in the Vaasa region (402 gigawatt-hours) – more than in any other year in the company’s history. In electricity production, we were not quite able to reach our goal with 89 gigawatt-hours of electricity produced which was largely due to the very low price of electricity in the market. In availability, the goal was also slightly missed because of fractures in boiler tubes and repair work that followed. The production figures in total are, however, very good. Our aim is to optimise the plant operation and make it cleaner and even more efficient in the future.
In 2020, we produced about 60 percent of district heating in the Vaasa region.
We took steps towards a more climate-smart energy production as we made a contract with Vaasan Sähkö and EPV Energia on storing Westenergy’s waste heat in the new energy storage. Because of the energy storage, additional thermal energy that Westenergy produces in the summertime can be stored and taken into use when needed. In this way, we will be able to even out the gap between energy production and demand. Energy storage demonstrates the excellent co-operation that has been done in Ostrobothnia to make energy production cleaner and more efficient. I want to thank Vaasan Sähkö for good co-operation.
The goals on decreasing air emissions and especially on carbon-neutrality outline the development of the energy sector both on the national and EU-level. The change is fast, and it is important for us to keep up with the development. We have, therefore, launched a project in co-operation with the University of Vaasa’s innovation centre VEBIC in which we are studying the best technology that could be applied to our plant to capture CO2. In the project, the possibilities for utilisation and storing CO2 are also analysed. The project was determinedly taken forward last year, and our goal is to make our ener-gy production carbon-neutral by 2030. In addition to this project, we promote the development of circular economy on our entire operation area and participate in a project that aims at creating a more efficient biogas production and distribution network in Ostrobothnia.
The legislation related to energy and waste sectors is going through major changes as we speak. As Westenergy operates in between the two industries, changes will affect our operation and future from two directions. In outlining the strategy of the company, we have sought to identify the challenges related to our operational environment, and our aim is to secure the operating conditions of the company also in the future. Energy recovery of waste has an important role in the society, and our aim to is to participate actively in the discussions that create the basis for reforming the legislation. With our co-operation partners and interest groups, we are actively promoting Green Deal to this sector as we believe that co-operation projects and target programmes are a significantly more efficient way to reach the circular economy goals than, for instance, tax increases. I want to thank the company board for a forward-looking point of view and active work in developing the company.
When one speaks about recycling and circular economy goals, one quite easily turns to the waste industry for answers. It is, however, important to remember that reaching the circular economy and recycling goals is possible only when the entire value chains of different products are taken into consideration. Already at the very top of the value chain, the entire product lifecycles need to be planned carefully and recyclable materials should be favoured. Creating functional markets for recycled materials is also very important. Westenergy takes part in making the change but a real change requires the participation of all the actors of the value chain. Cleaner and more sustainable future is built together.
Energy recovery of waste has an important role in the society.