Energy Update: The Ministry of the Environment's guide on wind power construction will be updated to reflect the changes in legislation
In recent years, there has been an increase in understanding the impacts of wind power development, which has also led to legislative changes in the sector. To reflect this development, the Finnish Ministry of the Environment is currently updating its Wind Power Guide, which was published in 2016. In this article, our Energy practice's Associates Teemu Huhtala and Janne Helaskoski discuss the key objectives and the main features of the revision of the Wind Power Guide.
The Wind Power Guide is intended to guide sustainable wind power development in Finland
There are a number of factors that a wind power project developer has to consider when constructing a wind farm, such as the municipality's land use objectives, the preservation of environmental values and the need to reconcile with the expectations of different stakeholders. In order to reconcile with these different objectives effectively, it is essential to promote the most consistent possible application of legislation in the management of wind power development and construction. With these objectives in mind, the Finnish Ministry of the Environment issued already in 2016 a guide on wind power construction in Finland (Ympäristöhallinnon ohjeita - Tuulivoimarakentamisen suunnittelu 5/2016) (the "Wind Power Guide"), which is currently being revised to reflect the recent changes in Finnish legislation and to clarify existing practices.
According to the Finnish Wind Power Association, a total of 1,508 wind turbines with a combined capacity of 6,351 megawatts have been constructed in Finland by September 2023. More wind power projects are being developed at a rapid pace and based on known investment decisions wind power will cover more than half of Finland's electricity production by 2030. It is widely recognised that the impacts of the wind farms on, among other things, nature and human habitats, depend largely on the location of the projects and the environmental values of the planned project area. For this reason, wind power construction requires compatibility with its surroundings and that its possible adverse effects are adequately taken into account in the project development and construction.
The main purpose of the Wind Power Guide is to promote the most consistent application of legislation in the development and construction of industrial scale wind power, and thus to find the most suitable areas for wind power projects by coordinating the various activities with relevant stakeholders. However, the Wind Power Guide is versatile in its applicability and can serve as a valuable resource not only for the construction of industrial-scale wind power projects, but also for guiding the development and construction processes of smaller-scale projects.
It should be noted that the Wind Power Guide only includes principles and considerations for the development and construction of wind power projects. The Wind Power Guide therefore does not take into account the planning and building principles for other land uses in relation to wind power. The Wind Power Guide is primarily intended to be used as a general guideline for experts working in land use planning, impact assessment and permitting procedures in municipalities, county councils and the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment. However, as a general guideline, it also provides very useful information for wind power developers and other stakeholders to help them plan their development and other activities and to avoid unexpected surprises. It should be noted, however, that the Wind Power Guide is not intended to create binding obligations for wind power development and construction.
The Wind Power Guide will be updated to reflect the legislative amendments related to wind power development and construction
The Ministry of the Environment launched a project to update the Wind Power Guide in the summer of 2023. The update has been prepared in collaboration with experts and other stakeholders who have provided opinions and comments on various aspects of the proposed update. According to the Ministry of the Environment's assessment, imperative legislative amendments and emerging practices have necessitated the revision of the Wind Power Guide's content pertaining to planning, permitting, and impact assessment related to wind power. The ongoing update focuses mainly on developing guidelines for wind power development and improving dialogue between different stakeholders, rather than on the need for legislative change.
It should be noted that the Wind Power Guide has also been updated previously, for example, due to the revised Environmental Impact Assessment Act (252/2017) of 2017 and the new Nature Conservation Act (9/2023) that entered into force on 1 June 2023 to reflect both the increased knowledge of the impacts of wind power projects and changes in the legislation on wind power construction. The aforementioned updates have been integrated into the current version which is undergoing the updating process.
Finland's legislation regarding land use and construction is currently undergoing a substantial amendment. The new Building Act (751/2023) will enter into force on 1 January 2025, with certain partial changes having already entered into force on 1 January 2024. However, the proposed updated Wind Power Guide does not yet take into account the changes resulting from the new Building Act but has instead been updated in accordance with the provisions of the current Land Use and Building Act (132/1999). Significant changes of the new Building Act compared to the current Land Use and Building Act include the introduction of climate change mitigation, as the new Building Act mandates low-carbon construction, which will require consideration of climate impacts and benefits throughout the entire life cycle of a project. According to the Ministry of the Environment, the changes resulting from the Building Act will be updated to the Wind Power Guide at a later stage.
The update is expected to be completed during 2024
The Ministry of the Environment has submitted the draft of the updated Wind Power Guide for comments in July 2023. The final version of the updated Wind Power Guide is expected to be published during 2024.
Our Energy practice will follow the progress of the update process and publish relevant newsflashes as the update process progresses. Should any questions arise, do not hesitate to be in touch with the contact lawyers listed on this page. We are happy to discuss and give further insight into the matter!