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, which we made sure was up to date during the financial year. Key aspects include a thorough environmental impact assessment (EIA) and preparedness for environmental risks. During the year we further developed our environmental management by establishing a management system in compliance with the ISO 14 001 standard for the reserve power plants.
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. During the financial year we introduced an online environmental training course intended for those working on our construction sites. We also provided environmental training during the kick-off meetings for investment projects, and we organised training on the use of chemicals, the management of safety data sheets and oil spill response for the providers of maintenance services at substations and reserve power plants. 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 15 audits.
Our goal is to complete grid investment projects and maintenance without any environmental deviations. At substations and reserve power plants, we improved chemical safety through several development projects, such as by determining the environmental impacts of the chemicals used in maintenance and by looking into ways of limiting the environmental impacts of transformer fires. We drew up oil spill response plans and updated our emergency response plans at all reserve power plants. One significant environmental deviation was detected in our operations during the year, however, when an oil leak of roughly 180 litres occurred at the Isokangas substation construction site.
Fingrid actively participates in land-use planning to ensure safety and land-use reservations for the grid. In 2016, we issued around 260 statements on land-use plans and EIAs. In addition, we directed the construction taking place near grid installations by issuing safety instructions and statements including land use restrictions. Some 420 such statements were issued.
We were active in, among other things, reforming radiation legislation. We commissioned measurements at substations and drew up guidelines related to the entry into force of the directive on workers exposure to electromagnetic fields. We were also part of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Healths working group preparing legislation on exposure to non-ionising radiation. We continued to commission status reports by the Tampere University of Technology on global, medically oriented research reports on electromagnetic fields. There was no new evidence of the health impacts, but we understand that people are concerned about the electromagnetic fields of power lines.
Depending on the project, the environmental impacts of transmission line projects on people and nature are analysed either through an environmental impact assessment (EIA) or an environmental study in compliance with the Electricity Market Act. 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-ways, a key aspect is to avoid residential areas and other significant sites.
EIAs were carried out for six transmission line projects in 2016. Two events were arranged to inform the public about the environmental impacts of the power lines required to connect the Hanhikivi 1 nuclear power plant to the grid; the EIA process for the project was completed in October 2016. A Natura assessment update was carried out and a considerable bird population database was compiled for this project in compliance with the Nature Conservation Act. An EIA was completed for five transmission line projects (Hämeenlahti–Hännilä, Kontiolahti–Pamilo, Kontiolahti–Uimaharju, Siikajoki–Raahe and the line rearrangements for the Olkiluoto substation). Three projects involved archaeological inventories.
In order to be able to build, operate and maintain a transmission line, Fingrid redeems a right of use to the transmission line area. Redemption permits were obtained for the re-routing of transmission lines from Multisilta and Kangasala to Lavianvuori and for the transmission lines Vanaja–Tikinmaa, Vihtavuori–Koivisto and Koria–Yllikkälä. A redemption permit application was filed for the transmission line project Hikiä–Orimattila. The redemption compensation procedure was completed in seven transmission line projects. Eight hearings in accordance with the Finnish Act on the Redemption of Immoveable Property and Special Rights were held with landowners. A residential property was purchased in order to ensure appropriate line planning.
Co-operation with land owners in important in power line projects. In a questionnaire given to landowners on the three completed transmission line projects, we received a grade of around 4 on a scale of 1 to 5, i.e. good. With 247 landowners responding to the questionnaire, the response rate was 54%. Landowners would like to see more pro-active and accurate communication from Fingrid as the construction work progresses, and they highlight the importance of agreeing in advance on the use of roads and moving about in fields and yard areas. We are further developing our communication practices and channels on the basis of the feedback.
Our service providers who carry out maintenance work and trim vegetation along power line right-of-ways are always instructed to take land owners and environmental matters into account. 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. In 2016, we looked into how to take better advantage of power line areas to promote the well-being of nature and people. With the help of studies conducted together with our stakeholders and representatives of various professions, we have prepared so-called idea cards for land owners, explaining the possibilities of using power line right-of-ways. Municipalities land-use planning is also a good opportunity to promote the sustainable use of power line areas. This is something we have underscored in our updated guidelines intended for land planners and construction supervisors. Efforts to protect the endangered false heath fritillary butterfly continued in a power line area in the region of Pirkanmaa, and in Nokia grazing sheep revived the disappearing meadow flora.
Fingrid is responsible for the functioning and safety of the electricity supply system in all circumstances. During the financial year, we had to apply for a special permit under the Nature Conservation Act due to a flying squirrel habitat on a power line right-of-way in Äänekoski and the substation in Jyväskylä. We also had to remove an osprey nest from a transmission tower for safety reasons.
Power losses caused by climate impacts take place during electricity transmission amount to roughly one per cent of Finlands total electricity consumption. 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. During 2016, Fingrid signed the energy efficiency agreement of Finnish industries 2017–2025 and committed to the target of cutting energy use by six per cent 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 2016 were 21 (64) kg. At the end of 2016, there was a total of approximately 37 (34) tonnes of SF6 gas at our substations, and the annual leakage rate in the long-term has been on average less than 0.2 per cent. Fingrids methods of monitoring SF6 gas are of an internationally high level. Gas facilities are monitored using online maintenance monitoring technology to help catch even minor leaks rapidly.
Fingrid's main environmental impacts