ForTheDoers Blog

Sharing insights for future happiness – Fortum to participate in Dubai World Expo

Vesa Ahoniemi 01 October 2021, 11:47 EEST

The energy transition is a global challenge that has the potential to unite people and nations around the world. Expo 2020 Dubai, which runs from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022, is a forum where we can share ideas, expertise, and insights that will take us closer to a carbon-free future. No country or continent can win this battle alone, and we at Fortum are excited at the chance to represent Finnish energy expertise in this international arena.

dubai expo

Expo 2020 Dubai – postponed by a year due to the pandemic – showcases innovations, technologies, and sustainable solutions from around the world. Fortum is part of the Finnish delegation, which includes more than 100 businesses brought together by Business Finland. We are also part of the FinNuclear cluster representing our national expertise in the nuclear sector. The main theme of the Finland Pavilion is “Sharing Future Happiness”, which is certainly something we strive for. Our main focus, clean energy, is an essential component of a happy, sustainable future for all.

Electrification is key to decarbonisation

At the Smart Energy Forum, held by the Finland at Expo 2020 Dubai team on 31 August as a prelude to the actual event, I talked about the energy transition and how it connects with Fortum’s strategy and business model. We approach the matter from two separate angles: on the one hand, we work to decarbonise our own energy production, and, on the other, we help our customers decarbonise their operations. These goals are at the very core of our strategy.

In practice, this decarbonation means investing in electrification, which will be crucial in the global effort to reduce emissions, and in the development of hydrogen production to replace fossils in industries that cannot be electrified. It is estimated that electricity consumption will almost double by 2050. We need to build new clean generation capacity, such as renewables, while at the same time phase out coal – and eventually natural gas – in power plants.

In the UAE and Middle East, natural gas plays an important role in the energy mix. However, renewable energy sources are gaining ground in the region. The conditions for wind and especially solar power are excellent. But as the share of renewables increases, just as in Europe there is an even greater need for flexible generation capacity to balance the intermittency of weather-dependent sources. In this way, natural gas will continue to be an important part of the energy transition. In the long term, hydrogen is likely to take its place as the balancing element of the electricity system. We look forward to discussing the transition-related opportunities at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Great potential in green hydrogen and green ammonia

Our subsidiary Uniper has several ongoing green hydrogen pilot projects in Europe, and, as a Group, we have many more in the planning phase. One hindrance in the development of green hydrogen projects is that technology costs are still too high for the sector to grow as fast as it could. However, as the learning curve works its magic, I am confident that in the next ten years we will see significant development in hydrogen infrastructure, allowing for the scaling up of production – just as we saw with solar and wind power. More production capacity means lower costs, making hydrogen a viable option for balancing renewables and replacing natural gas in, for example, transportation and the chemical industry.

While the existing pilot projects of our subsidiary Uniper are in the couple-of-megawatt scale, we could be in the gigawatt-scale by 2030. Uniper has also studied hydrogen storage possibilities, and it would seem that the salt caverns currently used to store natural gas could also be used for hydrogen. This would facilitate the use of hydrogen as a balancing energy source to complement renewables and ensure security of supply, similarly to natural gas today.

Green hydrogen can also be used to make green ammonia, which could be used as a fuel directly or converted back to hydrogen. Ammonia is easier to transport than hydrogen and could therefore enable the birth of a truly global clean hydrogen market. Europe may well have to import some of its future hydrogen demand, and the Middle East could be one very competitive supplier.

Although the technologies and mechanisms can be very similar, different countries are proceeding at a varying pace towards decarbonisation. Their starting points are different, as are the resources at their disposal. What matters most is the common will to move in the right direction. Working together and coordinating our efforts globally is essential, and events like Expo 2020 Dubai offer opportunities to create important connections. I think Fortum, as an international company operating in resources and raw materials with a global market, has much to offer. Finnish expertise is something we – and the entire Finland Pavilion – take pride in.

Vesa Ahoniemi

Strategy Manager
vesa [dot] ahoniemi [at] fortum [dot] com

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