Energy | Finland’s wind turbines are already mostly foreign-owned

If you see wind power plant in Finland, it is more and more likely that its largest owner has a lodge somewhere other than Finland.

The share of foreign ownership in Finland’s wind power capacity has grown rapidly in recent years, and is currently 56 percent, according to the Finnish Wind Energy Association statistics.

The shift in favor of foreign ownership has occurred in recent years at the same time as a record amount of new wind power has been built in Finland. As recently as 2019, the share of foreign ownership in Finland’s wind power capacity was 31 percent.

The owner of a wind farm is considered foreign if more than 50 percent of its ownership or voting power is directly or indirectly held by one foreign entity.

For example, Ilmatar, which sounds very Finnish, is a foreign company in this statistic, as the French company Omnes Capital owns 70 percent of it.

Finland the managing director of the wind power association Anni Mikkonen according to one reason for the increase in foreign ownership is the increase in the number and size of projects. There is not enough domestic capital for such a large investment wave.

“You can no longer implement them with domestic money alone,” says Mikkonen.

So far, the busiest year in history for the construction of wind turbines was last year. The nominal power of the power plants installed in 2022, i.e. the theoretical maximum power, is 2430 megawatts. That’s a wild number, because the total nominal power of Finland’s wind turbines today is 6116 megawatts.

Last year, 14 percent of Finland’s electricity consumption was covered by wind power.

In 2022, at least 60 percent of the wind power capacity was built by operators with foreign majority ownership.

Last year, the French company Neoen grabbed the biggest slice of Finnish wind.

The Mutkalamm wind farm it built in Central and Northern Ostrobothnia is Finland’s largest wind power production area so far. Denmark’s Vestas has 69 power plants. The blade of each of them sweeps the sky at a height of 220 meters.

Among the projects completed in 2022, there are also many German owners and a couple of British funds. All the biggest owners are from the EU area.

In 2022, Taaleri Energia and EPV Tuulivoima, owned by domestic energy companies, installed the most Finnish-owned wind power.

The yield of wind power is affected by how much industry that uses clean electricity is built in Finland.

Foreign the increase in ownership means that an increasingly large part of the profits made from Finnish wind will flow abroad, although property taxes, land rental income, corporation tax and maintenance income will of course still remain in Finland.

Research director of the Faculty of Energy Systems at Lut University Petteri Laaksonen still wants to question the notion that the growth of foreign ownership in wind power would be a particular problem. He compares to forest giants.

“How much of UPM and Stora Enso, for example, is owned from abroad?” He asks.

For example, 56.4 percent of UPM is owned by the Swedish bank SEB.

Laaksonen emphasizes that wind power brings electrical energy to Finland, which can be the basis for other types of investments and jobs that need clean electricity.

Once the infrastructure is built, renewing wind turbines is cheaper than starting from scratch.

In Laaksonen’s opinion, it is only good that the financial risk of building expensive infrastructure does not remain entirely in the account of, for example, Finnish pension funds. When wondering about his foreign ownership, one might forget that the activity also involves the possibility of financial failure.

The expensive construction cost should be repaid within several decades.

“The cost of the investment is quite easy to calculate. But the future return for the next 30 years… must be quite a fakir if you can predict it.”

The yield of wind power is affected by how much industry that utilizes clean electricity is built in Finland, such as green steel factories or hydrogen plants.

If industry that increases demand is not built and if wind power is concentrated in one side of Finland as it has been until now, it will start to eat its own profits: when there is a lot of wind, electricity is cheap and profits are small.

According to Laaksonen, Finnish investors often have a higher demand for return on equity than large foreign financiers, whose pockets are deeper.

“They might be happy with that if they get a three or four percent long-term, low-risk return.”

Wind Power Association lobbies for wind power and emphasizes the money left in Finland.

Especially in smaller towns, the importance of wind turbines for the municipal economy can be great. Association on pages for example has been raised by the municipality of Kalajoki, whose 64 wind turbines brought the city property tax revenues of 1.7 million euros in 2020.

At the request of HS, Mikkonen also looked at the wind turbines currently under construction in Finland, in order to find out whether the trend of increasing foreign ownership in the Finnish wind power field will continue.

Based on those numbers, development is leveling off. According to Mikkonen, the share of foreign ownership of the wind power currently under construction is 39 percent.

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