When we build and maintain power lines, substations and reserve power plants, we make sure that environmental and land-use issues are taken into account for the long term. We also relate our principles for reducing our environmental impacts in our land use and environmental policy. Key aspects include a thorough environmental impact assessment (EIA) and preparedness for environmental risks. Environmental management was developed during the year by certifying the environmental management system concerning the operation of the reserve power plants according to ISO 14 001.
We also encourage our contractors and service suppliers to commit to our operating practices with the help of contractual terms, environmental training and auditing related to environmental matters. All personnel working at our work sites complete online training on environmental matters. During the year under review, we arranged environmental training during the launching stages of investment projects and maintenance contracts, training on the management of fire-water at substations, on the implementation of an environmental management system at reserve power plants as well as on the maintenance of oil separator systems. We compiled environmental guidelines for work sites in a pocket-sized stack of info cards. On our construction sites, environmental aspects were monitored as part of work site monitoring. Compliance with environmental requirements, occupational safety and contractor obligations was verified in a total of 13 audits. In addition, two full safety audits were carried out at reserve power plants.
Our goal is to complete grid investment projects and maintenance without any environmental deviations. The chemical safety at substations and reserve power plants was improved through several development projects on themes such as transformer catch basin dewatering and oil separation systems. The applicability of biodegradable and fire-rated ester oils in Fingrid’s transformers and their cost-effectiveness compared with traditional mineral oil transformers were investigated in two thesis projects. Following the completion of the Huutokoski reserve power plant upgrading project, the plant’s environmental safety also improved. One significant environmental deviation occurred in our operations during the year, however, when a hydraulic oil leak of roughly 120 litres occurred at a power line work site in an accident involving work machinery.
Fingrid actively participates in land-use planning to ensure safety and land-use reservations for the grid. In 2017, we issued around 260 statements on land-use plans and EIAs. In addition, we directed the construction taking place near grid installations by issuing roughly 510 safety instructions and statements including land-use restrictions.
Fingrid participated in legislation work, for example to update the radiation legislation by drawing up new legislation on protection of the public from non-ionized radiation. Measurements related to the exposure of employees to electromagnetic fields at substations were continued and we commissioned a thesis project on the topic. We continued to publish, jointly with an independent expert party, status reports on global, medically oriented research on electromagnetic fields. While there is no new, conflicting evidence of the health impacts, we understand that people are concerned about the electromagnetic fields of power lines and will continue to monitor research reports.
The impacts of our transmission line projects on people and on the environment are determined, depending on the specific project, according to an EIA procedure as required under the legislation on the environmental impact assessment procedure or, for projects with minor impacts, by means of an environmental study. Consultations with landowners are very important in terms of ensuring that the power line adapts to the environment, taking into account various perspectives and stakeholders. In our power line projects, we primarily utilise existing right-of-ways, in accordance with the nationwide land-use objectives stipulated in the Land Use and Building Act. When planning transmission line routes in a new right-of-way, a key aspect is to avoid residential areas and other significant sites.
EIAs were carried out for four power line projects during the year under review. The environmental impact assessments for the Pyhänselkä–Keminmaa and Pyhänselkä–Nuojua power lines were started in accordance with the reformed EIA legislation, and the projects were presented to the public at four events. An environmental assessment was carried out on two power line projects (Imatra–Huutokoski and Kittilänjärvi–Taivalkoski). We promoted landowner engagement during the planning stages of these projects through a mailing campaign and an online feedback system. The Finnish Association for Impact Assessment granted the company their annual award for good EIA activities for the environmental assessment procedure carried out on the power lines required by the Hanhikivi 1 nuclear power plant.
In order to be able to build, operate and maintain a transmission line, Fingrid redeems a right of use to the transmission line area. A redemption decision was received for the Hikiä–Orimattila power lines. Five hearings in accordance with the Finnish Act on the Redemption of Immoveable Property and Special Rights were held with landowners. No purchases or redemption procedures of residential properties were necessary to accomplish appropriate transmission line planning. Co-operation with landowners is important in power line projects. In a questionnaire given to landowners on the completed Varkaus—Kontiolahti transmission line project, we received an overall grade of around 4 on a scale of 1 to 5. With 185 landowners responding to the questionnaire, the response rate was 51%. Landowners would like to see pro-active and accurate communication from Fingrid on the progress of construction work and highlight the importance of agreeing in advance on the use of roads and moving about in fields and yard areas. This feedback has been taken into account when developing our communication procedures. In addition to statutory communication, a total of over 10,000 letters were sent to landowners concerning topics such as environmental impact assessments, power line construction and trimming of vegetation in power line areas. We have also tried new communication channels, including social media.
Our service providers who carry out maintenance work and trim vegetation along power line right-of-ways are also instructed to take landowners and environmental matters into account. During the year under review, negotiations were started with the Finnish Road Association, the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK) and the central union of Swedish-speaking agricultural producers in Finland (SLC) on new agreements concerning access roads for maintenance purposes. The agreements will be based on the updated recommendations on usage fees for maintenance roads and will cover a term of 10 years.
The transmission line right-of-ways that are kept permanently open by regular clearing transform the local land use and landscapes. The impacts on biodiversity can also be positive, as transmission line areas can act as a replacement habitat for species threatened by disappearing meadows or the drainage of peatlands. During the year under review, we promoted the utilisation of power line areas for the benefit of nature and people by publishing idea cards targeted at landowners and offering financial support for the management of heritage landscapes. We also informed municipalities of the opportunities offered by land-use planning to promote the sustainable use of power line areas. Trials were carried out to verify the effects of artificially increasing the amount of decaying wood, an important variable for biodiversity, in connection with the MTK’s and the Finnish Energy Industries’ project on securing forest biodiversity in the management of areas adjoining transmission line right-of-ways. For public safety reasons, it was necessary to remove an osprey nest from a transmission tower. Fingrid is responsible for the functioning and safety of the electricity supply system in all circumstances.
Power losses taking place during electricity transmission amount to roughly one per cent of Finland’s total electricity consumption. The production of electricity to cover the losses results in climate impacts. We minimise losses by keeping the voltage of the transmission grid as high as possible and by making grid investments and equipment procurements that promote energy efficiency. Fingrid participates in the energy efficiency agreement of Finnish industries for 2017–2025 with a target of cutting energy use by six per cent, which translates to roughly 84,500 megawatt hours, by 2025. Climate impacts also result from our reserve power plants and from sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), a powerful greenhouse gas used in our substation equipment. Our SF6 gas emissions in 2017 were approximately 24 (21) kg. At the end of 2017, there was a total of approximately 45 (37) tonnes of SF6 gas at our substations, while the annual leakage rate in the long-term averages less than 0.2 per cent. Fingrid’s methods of monitoring SF6 gas are at an internationally high standard, and even minor leaks are detected in real time. Fingrid’s direct CO2 emissions and indirect CO2 emissions due to the company’s own electricity consumption and losses amounted to 230,341 tonnes of CO2 in 2017, the majority of which (approx. 96%) were caused by disturbances.
Fingrid's main environmental impacts
Key events of 2017
Fingrid receives its second EIA award
The Finnish Association for Impact Assessment granted Fingrid their annual award for good EIA activities for the environmental assessment procedure carried out on the power lines required to connect the Hanhikivi 1 nuclear power plant to the grid.
Fingrid has also previously received the award, in 2011. The EIA procedure is a valuable planning tool for Fingrid to find the environmentally best right-of-way locations for new transmission lines in co-operation with landowners, authorities and other stakeholders. Fingrid has developed its ways of working to match the EIA procedure as optimally as possible with the needs of all the related parties.
The communication and engagement measures aimed at landowners have been increased, and the communications on Fingrid projects have been made easier to understand. New ways of presenting the impacts have been developed to make it easy for all interested parties to find the information relevant for them in the extensive materials on transmission line projects. It is also important to ensure effective follow-up of information on the subsequent project stages after the EIA.
Certification for the environmental management system on reserve power plants
Fingrid’s environmental management system on reserve power plants was audited according to the ISO 14001 standard in August and September 2017.
The operations of Fingrid’s reserve power plants, based on proactive operational procedures, have for a long time met the requirements set for certified environmental management systems. The certificate officially recognises that the environmental aspects of Fingrid’s reserve power plants are taken care of in a systematic and target-oriented manner. It also introduces more accurate ways of working: in future, the realisation of the targets will be followed up on by means of performance indicators.
The regular use of reserve power plants is minimal, but the plant areas contain significant fuel storages. In exceptional situations and emergencies, the operations can have a major impact on the environment. The most important environmental risk at the reserve power plants is environmental damage such as fuel and oil leaks to the soil or water.