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Bioenergy from Finnish forests: Sustainable, efficient, modern use of wood

This study describes Finland's approach to sustainable biomass supply based on forest wood resources, offering insights to other countries on how to develop forest bioenergy.


Wood residues form Finland’s main source of bioenergy. About half of the country’s wood production is used for heat and power, either through district heating systems or through combined heat and power (CHP) plants. The most modern of these plants use fluidised bed technology to combust or gasify a wide range of forest residues.

This report describes Finland’s approach to sustainable solid biomass supply based on forest wood resources. The study – prepared by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd in close co-operation with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) – offers insights for other countries on the development of sustainable forest bioenergy.

Three case studies illustrate specific, innovative forest bioenergy applications:

  • One bioproduct mill in central Finland, for example, uses wood residues to power its own operations, heat the nearby town, and provide electricity for the Nordic regional market, in addition to producing pulp, turpentine and high-value products such as fertilisers and liquid biofuels.
  • In southern Finland, a CHP plant uses a flue gas condenser to capture additional energy from moist fuel, resulting in impressive 96% efficiency.
  • In eastern Finland, another CHP plant produces bio-oil from forest residues and sawdust, using a fluidised bed boiler to provide heat for the pyrolysis process and left-over gases to generate additional heat and power.

Active management allows carbon storage in forests to grow while more energy is extracted from them. With Finnish forests growing nearly twice as fast as they were in the 1950s, the amount of wood that can be sustainably extracted from them has nearly doubled, the report notes.

The other half of Finland’s wood production goes mainly to lumber or pulp and paper products, where efficient technologies also help to improve cost-effectiveness and sustainability.