Finland was the stage for the tug of war of influence and ownership between the King of Sweden and the Russian empire for the better half of the 19th century. Before that, in the 18th century, the country, especially and primarily its hallmark port of Helsinki (which was later made the capital by the Russian empire due to its proximity to the then capital St. Petersburg), was devastated by the plague of the Great Northern War. For most part of the 20th century, until World War II, the country became victim to many misadventures of the USSR and Nazi Germany in their attempts to influence Europe. Even with this turbulent history and rather rutted pace of political stability, the Finland of today has managed to ward of the demons of its past and become a model example of development and welfare. Entertaining a Scandinavian system of political economy, the country has succeeded in implementing democratic values down to the very core of the nation’s psyche, encouraging accountability, transparency, and self-sufficiency. The country topped the Corruption Perception Index issued by Transparency International in 2012 and has managed to sustain the cleanliness of its public system for the most part (it is ranked at number 3 in the latest index). Its investments choices, policies, and projects all tend to set a benchmark for the world in terms of efficiency and pragmatism. One such endeavor is the country’s District heating (DH) system.
As one of the most northern countries of Europe, the country is home to a constant demand for space and water heating. Individual heating practices however, tend to encourage carbon emissions and are expensive for the consumer. To solve both these problems, the country’s decision-making infrastructure decided in favor of the DH system of heating. Going a step further in reducing carbon emissions and controlling prices, the country narrowed its focus on Combined Heat and Power production to provide for its DH needs. As of today, the country is termed a world leader in Combined Heat and power production and is wholly self sufficient in catering to its energy (heat and otherwise) needs.
Now for a description and elaboration of the above jargon infused commentary. In the simplest language, what Finland has managed to do is to make use of the energy lost during industrial activity. As the country is not ‘Engineer’ Agha Waqar and hence cannot ‘create’ energy, it has instead installed a dedicated network of DH infrastructure across its geography to convert and use this trapped heat. Water, which is warmed by this trapped heat, travels across the country and deposits heat to the households of the consumers. As the country has focused on Combined Heat and Power production, not only is it able to meet both of its heat and electricity needs efficiently but has also managed to significantly reduce its carbon footprint. Now, the country is focusing on District Cooling (DC) whereby, the conventional instruments of cooling such as ozone depleting air conditioners would be replaced by naturally cold water (due to its location and heat capacity) running adjacent to the DH network.
The DH and DC are one of the many, many options of energy conservation and productivity available to the world at large. It is the country’s responsibility to sift through the options available to it and cater to its energy needs in the most efficient manner. Finland of course, has taken advantage of its proximity near the Arctic circle, just as Iceland has taken advantage of the geo-thermal activity within its volcanic foundations and Brazil and Paraguay have catered to their energy needs with the construction of the Itaipu dam on the Parana River. Pakistan however, has stubbornly refused to take advantage of the options available to it.
Geography lessons from secondary-school level onwards poetically emphasize the many blessings of Pakistan in the form of its versatile landforms and very convenient location. The country enjoys 4 seasons, is home to some of the highest peaks of the world and has an abundance of fertile land. Its water system neatly branches out across its most fertile plains and has the potential of increasing its reach with the assistance of a planned canal system and water reservoirs. The coastal lines that snake around its water-forms within and outside the country enjoy sea and land breezes and fall in the way of the trade winds. Even with all of these options available to it, the country has still managed to remain aloof to the potential of innovative energy generation, relying solely on expensive energy imports or its depleting reservoirs of natural resources. Now, quite imprudently, it is bent upon exploiting nuclear energy to cater to its energy needs in the backdrop of the nuclear deal between US and India finalized a week ago. For this purpose, the country has allowed the Chinese National Nuclear Corporation to construct two nuclear reactors on the precinct of Karachi costing approximately $5 billion dollars each. Besides the enormity of its cost, the reactors being built are based on an untested design and hence pose a threat to the 20 million plus population of Karachi. The fact that the country has not demanded Chinese assistance in generating electricity from the many opportunities of renewable and/ or sustainable resources at its disposal clearly shows a lack of prioritization and compartmentalization within its socio-political decision-making. It also indicates how unserious the policy makers are in easing the financial pressure that has exploited the common man. Finally and most importantly, it shows how the country’s leaders are bent-upon making short-sighted decisions that will destine it to a future of dependence and insufficiency, a situation not too different from its current predicament.