Other than presenting the benefits of the Energy Union for each country and taking note of national concerns - the Energy Union Tour is an opportunity for me to see with my own eyes some of Europe's best practices. Why? Because not only energy should flow freely across our continent - but also knowledge and expertise. Finland's Vaasa region was the perfect place to see a highly successful energy transition which involves everyone; from the age of... five!
Policy making has a central role in modern society, translating political aspirations into a coherent set of laws which we all abide by. But when society undergoes a deep transition, it is not only up to policy makers to set the rules. The 21st century will be marked by humanity's transition to sustainable and renweable energy sources, an endeavour which requires the involvement of us all: researchers and inventors; entrepreneurs and consumers, local authorities and educators.
Visiting Finland, as part of the Energy Union Tour, I was astonished by the level of ambition, engagement, and accomplishments across sectors. It's not only about Vaasa being a smart city which is almost entirely covered by smart grids. It is the fact that the Vaasa region is one of Finland’s growth centres and is the home for the leading energy cluster in the Nordic Countries with 140 companies and with a total annual turnover of some €4.4 billion, and employing 10,000 people. For this reason it was important for me to exchange with the Vaasa energy technology community and hear from them about their concerns and their latest innovations as they came to pitch new ideas at last week's Business Seminar.
But perhaps even more impressive than the contribution of Vaasa's men and women to the energy transition is the contribution of the region's… children. Yes, the schools in Vaasa are setting example with their energy efficiency, with teaching the next generation about energy responsibility, and most importantly - by living it from a young age. I was therefore delighted to visit the Borgaregatans School which holds the record of the most energy efficient school in all of Finland! Given their great accomplishments, I encouraged the pupils to share their knowledge and expertise with their peers in other schools across Europe and around the world, like the one I recently visited near Johannesburg.
As I have done in other European capitals, I also met with Finland's government and presented to Prime Minister Juha Sipilä as well as to my old colleague and friend, Minister Olli Rehn the benefits of the Energy Union to Finland. As I could expect from a front-runner energy transition country like Finland (whose Prime Minister comes from the ICT sector himself), their reactions were very positive; they could clearly recognise the added value which the Energy Union in general and demand-side technologies could bring to their market. Similarly, the role of national parliaments is vital to Europe's energy transition; ensuring voices from all constituencies are heard!
On a successful visit like this, there are many people I wish to thank:
The highly-engaged citizens who came to discuss the role of Finland in the energy transition and the role of the energy transition in Finland.
Members of the European Parliament, Miapetra Kumpula-Natri and Petri Sarvamaa who joined me on this visit and helped me convey the message to their electorates.
Little Alisha who found the best possible way to show me what Finnish environment looks like and why it is so important that we all protect it.
And last but not least, to the mayor of Vaasa for his hospitality, for the excellent exchanges and for the little reminder of the 2011 championship hosted by Slovakia where we were the perfect hosts and let Finland win…
Video of VP Maroš Šefčovič visit to Finland
Vice President Maroš Šefčovič visit to Finland