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Legal alerts / 28 May 2015

Legal Alert – New Governmental Coalition Program for Finland – Impacts on Infrastructure and Energy Projects

The new Finnish coalition government, consisting of the Centre Party, National Coalition and Finns Party, presented their coalition program on 27 May 2015. The program contains significant changes to the environmental legislation affecting infrastructure and large projects as well as the energy sector.

The coalition announced it will increase the powers of municipalities in land use planning while reducing the appeal rights of state environmental authorities. Land use plans for projects will be integrated with the environmental impact assessment procedure. Authority procedures in land use planning will be given a fixed time frame in order to expedite the procedure. In addition the appeal procedure in administrative courts will be amended to reduce the time vested in appeal procedures. Access to the Supreme Administrative Court will become subject to a leave to appeal in environmental and building matters and fees for appeals will be increased in order to deter individuals from appealing.

The program also contains substantial changes to energy policy. The coalition is introducing a revised policy focusing on the use of biopower. With respect to security of tenure the new government is abolishing the mining energy tax which was surprisingly introduced in 2014. However, a major change is directed at the current feed-in tariff for wind power which the government aims to reduce significantly from 2,500 MVA to approx. 2,000 MVA.

The scope of the earlier stage wind power projects that the amendment will target will be clarified as the legislation process continues. The current formulation speaks of quota decisions or acceptance in the feed-in tariff scheme as stages that will secure feed-in tariff for projects. Further the program announces that a less costly support scheme for wind power will be investigated.

The coalition has committed to avoiding costs increases for Finnish industry. A windfall tax, i.e. the governmental power plant tax, will not be implemented. The government will initiate a development project for energy technology. Solutions to increase the competitiveness of Finnish woodchips and peat fuel vis-à-vis coal will also be investigated.

The coalition directs the combined heat and power (CHP) production towards lower emissions by abolishing the reduced CO2 tax gradually. The actual model and time schedule for this will be prepared by the respective Ministries. Waste incineration will remain untaxed.

Under the coalition program, Finland will build a low-coal society and pay special attention to the use and development of biomass in energy production. The government will prepare an in depth report based on parliamentary work regarding the development of political alternatives in the energy sector. The focus will be on renewable energy and strengthening energy self-sufficiency taking climate targets into account.

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