First edition of the Winter School on 'Energy Transition in the North'

19.4.2017 

Giuseppe Amatulli, PhD Candidate and member of the Sustainable Development Research Group, is giving some remarks regarding the first edition of the Arctic Winter School   

The first Winter School on Energy Transition in the North took place from 12th to 18th March 2017 as a result of a new cooperation established among four of the northernmost universities of Northern Europe.

As a matter of fact, during the Arctic Europe Forum held in Oulu in September 2016, the University of Lapland and the University of Oulu from Finland, the University of Tromsø from Norway and Luleå University of Technology from Sweden signed a joint Arctic agenda. The aim of such agreement is to foster the cooperation among these academic institutions as regards research and education; as well as in order to find common synergies to work together on Arctic related issues.

The Arctic is becoming attractive more and more, due to its richness and new possibilities to exploit its resources due to ice-melting and climate change. Such challenges, together with demographic changes pose a serious risk for local communities living in the region. In order to address such challenges, there is the need to strengthen high-quality research in order to face the challenges of the future regarding energy needs, renewable energy, sustainable development and management of mineral resources in accordance with top environmental standards.

The first edition of the Winter School was focused on increasing the awareness about the challenges and opportunities as regards energy needs in the Arctic region, with a particular focus on the northernmost areas of Finland, Sweden and Norway. This means, in particular, understanding energy needs of people (and communities in general) living in the Arctic and the impact that an energy transition can have on such communities from a social and environmental point of view.   

In this sense, and in order to have a comprehensive understanding of the different areas of the north, the Winter School has been structured as an “itinerant school” in which seminar and lessons from scholars have been combined with several visits to different companies and power plants, while travelling in the northernmost parts of Finland, Sweden and Norway.

Gathering together almost 20 PhD candidates from the four universities, with different cultural backgrounds (there were 14 different nationalities represented among the students) and fields of expertise (from engineering to philosophy, from biology to social sciences); the winter school started in Oulu University, discussing issues related with energy grids, electricity systems and the increasing needs of energy in the future for running our electronic devices and for transport. In the afternoon, students moved to visit Volter Oy, a Finnish company based in Kempele that has been able to develop a technology to produce energy from wood chips.

The day after, the school continued in Luleå, at the Luleå University of Technology, where students had an introduction about forest based biorefineries and the use of biomasses to obtain chemicals and motor fuels. After such introductions, the crew travelled to Piteå, where it was organized a visit to SunPine, a bio-refinery that produces biodiesel using biomass and forest wastes.