Carbon-Neutral Energy

Our target is to achieve carbon neutrality by year 2035.

katri vala

Carbon-neutral energy production means production that does not increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and that way warm up the climate. Our target by 2025 is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40 per cent compared to the 1990 levels, to increase the share of renewable energy to 25 per cent, and to halve the amount of coal we use. We are preparing to phase out coal use by 2029 in accordance with the Government’s policy.

The use of coal is phased out in stages: The Hanasaari power plant will be closed by the end of 2024. Heat production in Hanasaari will be replaced with heat recycling with heat pumps, energy storage, and a bioenergy heating plant planned for Vuosaari.
After the bioenergy heating plant is completed, the Hanasaari power plant will move to reserve and peak load use at the end of 2022. Salmisaari will remain an important energy production area where coal will be replaced by 2029. The planning of these solutions is in full swing. Energy production will be carbon neutral by 2035. We will reduce at least 80 per cent of emissions ourselves and the rest will be offset, i.e. we ensure that emissions reductions will be made elsewhere.

Helen was the first Finnish energy company to commit to setting a science-based emissions reduction target. The emissions calculation will be based on the GHG protocol, i.e. in addition to CO2 emissions, also other greenhouse gases calculated according to the life cycle are taken into account. In addition to direct stack emissions (scope 1), indirect emissions from operations, such as those from properties and mobility (scope 2) and purchases (scope 3) are examined.

Energy production in 2020

In 2020, the share of energy we produced with renewable energy sources was 14 per cent (2019: 12 per cent). The rise was due to a reduction in fossil production as a result of a warm year. Emission-free production accounted for 26 per cent. We generate emission-free energy from nuclear power and renewable energy: hydropower, wood pellets, wind power and solar energy, as well as from various waste energy flows with heat pumps.

SHARE OF RENEWABLE ENERGY

  %
2017 12
2018 12
2019 12
2020 14
Target 2025 25

We produce energy mainly in our power plants and heating plants in different parts of Helsinki. We also supplement our production from outside Helsinki through our subsidiaries and associated companies, as well as purchases.

In 2020, our production volumes fell compared with the previous year due to a warmer than normal start and end to the year and the electricity market situation. The price of electricity in Finland was EUR 28.0/MWh. This is the lowest price of electricity since the early 2000s. We produced 6,120 gigawatt-hours of electricity (2019: 6,520 gigawatt-hours), 6420 gigawatt-hours of heat (2019: 7,000 gigawatt-hours) and 179 gigawatt-hours of cooling (2019: 173 gigawatt-hours).

Origin of district heat, GWh

  Natural gas Coal Heat pump Bio Oil
2015 3380 2550 420 20 50
2016 2190 4150 490 100 170
2017 1980 4320 570 150 70
2018 2510 3850 570 190 80
2019 2270 3940 545 185 60
2020 2720 2960 495 217 31

ORIGIN OF ELECTRICITY, GWH

  Natural gas Coal Nuclear power Renewables
2015 3460 1240 1390 890
2016 1950 2090 1460 960
2017 1790 2140 1370 990
2018 2290 2100 1460 880
2019 2270 1980 1520 820
2020 2320 1375 1475 950

See the specific emissions and origin of the electricity, heat and cooling sold by us.

In 2020, the amount of energy we produced by coal fell by 28 per cent and the share of natural gas production increased by 12 per cent. The change was due to the opening of the natural gas market and the improved competitiveness of gas, the energy market situation and the mild winter. The share of coal will fall significantly in the future when the Hanasaari power plant will be decommissioned by the end of 2024 and we are preparing to phase out coal in 2029 in accordance with the Government policy.

We produced 1,410 gigawatt-hours of nuclear power through our associated company Teollisuuden Voima Oy. Nuclear power production fell by one per cent. Hydropower production amounted to 850 GWh (2019: 700 GWh), an increase of 21 per cent due to a better hydrological year.

The amount of energy we produced from various types of waste heat, such as heat from purified waste water and excess heat of properties using heat pumps, fell by 9 per cent to 490 gigawatt-hours (2019: 540 gigawatt-hours). The fall in production was due to a long shutdown of the Katri Vala heating and cooling plant due to upgrade work.

The amount of energy we produced with wood pellets totalled 220 GWh, a fall of 4 per cent on the previous year due to reduced amounts of pellets used together with coal in mixed combustion.

Energy produced from wood pellets and biogas

  GWh
2016 180
2017 230
2018 220
2019 230
2020 220

We produced more energy from wind power than before, a total of 87 gigawatt-hours (70 gigawatt-hours in 2019). We procured wind power through our associated company Hyötytuuli Oy.
Wind power production is expected to grow considerably in future as a result of new projects and increased ownership.

We also increased solar energy production. We built solar power plants at our customers’ properties and continued solar heat recovery from buildings with the aid of district cooling. The solar power plants we implemented together with our customers produced a total of 6.5 GWh energy in 2020.

Investment in low-emission energy production

We made investment decisions in carbon-neutral production with a total value of EUR 350 million.

The target of a climate-neutral energy system directs the development of our future energy system. We aim to make progressive investments in reducing emissions and increasing renewable energy, and we utilise of all the opportunities offered by new technologies. We also develop new energy production solutions together with our customers and partners. New initiatives in the utilisation of industrial waste heat, sea water and geothermal heat were a significant step towards carbon neutrality.

Helen will significantly increase its wind power production in the next few years. The total investment in the new wind farm in 2020 totalled EUR 100 million. Helen has started the construction work of the Lakiakangas 3 wind farm (86 MW) in Ostrobothnia in partnership with the project developer CPC Finland. The project supports Helen’s target to increase wind power production fivefold in two years. Energy generated by the new wind farm will be available to Helen’s customers in 2022. In addition, the associated company Hyötytuuli has two wind farms in the construction stage, and they will be ready for production in 2021 and 2022. Hyötytuuli is also in the process of planning several projects throughout the country.

During 2020, we invested EUR 59.3 million in the reduction of emissions and increasing of low-emission energy production. We also made investment decisions in carbon-neutral production worth a total of EUR 350 million. The greatest investments were made in wind power, the new bioenergy heating plant under construction in Vuosaari, the refurbishment of the disused oil caverns in Mustikkamaa into cavern heat storage facilities, and the expansion of the Katri Vala heating and cooling plant. The role of waste heat and heat pumps in a carbon-neutral future will be great, and new heat sources are sought constantly.

We invest in the utilisation of the waste and excess heat of our customers. The excess heat of the roasting process in Paulig’s Vuosaari roastery is recovered and used in the district heating network. This is enough to meet the annual heat demand of 1,000 one-bedroom apartments.

We are expanding the Katri Vala heating and cooling plant with new heat pumps, sixth and seventh in order. As a result of the new heat pumps, the thermal output of the Katri Vala heating and cooling plant will rise to 155 megawatts and its cooling output to 103.5 megawatts. The value of the investment is about EUR 50 million and, as a result, our carbon dioxide emissions will fall by 150,000 tonnes per year. The heat pumps will be completed in 2021 and 2023.

We are building a heat pump in connection with the Vuosaari power plant, utilising the power plant’s own cooling water circulation and the heat of sea water as heat sources. A heat pump of this scale utilising the heat of the sea water is unique in Finland. The project will be completed in 2022. Its capacity is 13 MW of district heat and 9.5 MW of district cooling.

The amount of our nuclear power assets will increase when the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant starts operations. According to the latest update of the plant supplier, the Areva-Siemens consortium, of August 2020, the fuel will be loaded into the reactor in March 2021, the plant unit will be connected to the national grid in October of the same year, and regular electricity generation will start in February 2022.

We are also building a large heat storage facility in the disused oil caverns in Mustikkamaa, deep in the Helsinki bedrock. The volume of the facility is 260,000 cubic metres and it can store 12 gigawatt-hours of heat. The charging and discharging capacity of the heat storage facility is 120 megawatts, and discharging or charging with full capacity takes four days. The storage facility increases flexibility in the energy system in Helsinki and reduces the use of fossil fuels. The value of the investment is about EUR 15 million. The heat storage facility will be completed in 2021.

We are increasing hydropower production by carrying out a modernisation project on the Klåsarö hydropower plant located on the River Kymijoki. The plant’s output is 4.6 megawatts and annual production about 32 gigawatt-hours. As a result of the upgrade of the power plant’s turbines, the projected increase in production volume of the plant is about 10 per cent. The upgrade was completed at the end of last year and the plants are now in production.

Helen closed down the energy production use of the Vanhankaupunginkoski power plant museum. The museum power plant has no national significance in terms of energy production (output 0.25 MW). However, the plant and especially the dam in the Vanhankaupunginkoski Rapids have harmful impacts on the ecosystem and migrating fish stocks in the river.

We are increasing solar energy production in our own properties and those of our customers. In 2020, we built solar power plants on the roofs of the Patola and Myllypuro heating plants and the warehouse building of the Vuosaari power plant. We are studying the latest components of the solar energy market from throughout the world and their functioning under Finnish conditions in our own solar power plants. We are building more solar power plants on the roofs of our properties in 2021. The majority of the solar power plants we build are located on our customers’ properties.


We are building a bioenergy heating plant in Vuosaari

We are currently building a new bioenergy heating plant in Vuosaari: the construction work was launched in spring 2020. The size of the bioenergy heating plant is 260 MW and the value of its investment is about EUR 270 million. The plant will be completed for the heating season of 2022–2023. This and the previous investment decisions on heat pumps and energy storage will make it possible to close the Hanasaari power plant. The bioenergy heating plant will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 330,000 tonnes per year.

Promoting solutions for the future

The energy system in Helsinki is flexible and highly suitable for enabling various renewable and low-emission energy solutions. The district heating network is a superb platform, e.g. for utilising waste heat and future energy sources and transmitting them to consumers. The heating and cooling networks are independent of fuels or production methods.

In addition to increasing the use of biofuels, we are investigating, for example, the utilisation of waste heat with various kinds of heat pumps, solar heat, geothermal heat, and modular nuclear power and hydrogen. We are also evaluating the possibilities offered by demand response, distributed generation, storage, and energy saving, as well as production and energy efficiency solutions implemented together with our customers.

Our New Solutions unit, which is part of the Solutions business, carries out continuous concept development and testing of several products and services in progress in support of energy efficiency and sustainable development together with consumer and corporate customers. The idea of the concepts is to serve the current and future needs of the customers in terms of energy efficiency and mobility and to update Helen’s product portfolio by environmentally friendly means.

We are investigating the possibilities of utilising waste heat from the Kilpilahti refineries together with our partners. Kilpilahti produces a substantial amount of low-temperature waste heat, the utilisation of which has not been possible until now. The techno-economic study was completed in 2020. For the project, recovery funding has been applied for. The preconditions of the project to move on to the planning stage are currently under assessment.

We developed a city refinery in Vuosaari together with Lassila & Tikanoja and VTT with the objective of utilising materials and energy in accordance with a circular economy. The city refinery aims to process difficult-to-recycle materials and biomass into high-grade products. This will boost the efficiency of recycling of materials in Helsinki. The by-product of the process is heat, which is recycled into the district heating network. The preparatory study of the raw material, technology and end product markets of the city refinery was carried out during 2020. Based on the results of the preparatory study, it is not worth promoting the project in its current concept. The project will be continued, where applicable, under the theme of circular economy.

Small modular reactors (SMR) are one option among the carbon-neutral and low-emission energy production methods of the new energy era, and Helen is following their development. We are taking active part in the development and utilisation of the operational preconditions of SMR technology in district heat as part of the two-year EcoSMR project funded by Business Finland (Finnish Ecosystem for Small Modular Reactors). The project brings together Finnish actors to develop business around the possibilities of small modular reactors.

We are planning to build a seasonal heat storage facility in the disused oil caverns in Kruunuvuorenranta. In the solution, the large caverns of the seasonal storage facility of Kruunuvuorenranta will be filled with sea water heated by the sun in the summer. The water will then be utilised in the winter as an energy source for heat pumps. The total volume of the caverns is about 300,000 cubic metres. We will go ahead with the project if its technical and financial preconditions are met.

We are also investigating to increase wind power if suitable sites are found and the investment proves worthwhile. We are also interested in building wind power off the coast of Helsinki.

Helen’s district heat production is currently conducting a preliminary study on the possibility of utilising the heat of sea water. The study focuses on the possibility of utilising cold sea water during the winter from the techno-economic point of view.

Our new artificial intelligence system improves the planning of energy production and reduces emissions. We have developed a solution based on artificial intelligence for more accurate forecasting of heat consumption and more efficient planning of production. As the efficiency of the energy system improves, emissions will also decrease. Implemented in partnership with Silo AI, this is Helen’s first artificial intelligence system taken into production use.

Helen’s district heat production is currently conducting a preliminary study on the possibility of utilising the heat of outdoor air. The study focuses on the possibility of utilising heating plant-scale heat pumps, i.e. so-called air-to-water heat pumps, in the collection of outdoor heat from the air and turning it into district heat. The techno-economic suitability of heat collection devices and heat pumps for the district heat production machinery plays a key part in the study.

The solutions to utilise geothermal heat are currently still in their development and piloting phase. In the research project, Helen is piloting technology initially with a test well 2.5 km deep and a decision on a further project with a well 4.7 km deep will be made on the basis of the experience, studies and preliminary planning.

We are taking active part in several projects of Business Finland and the EU, in student collaboration and as partner in the Clic innovation cluster. The study areas in these include, e.g. utilisation of carbon dioxide, the possibilities of the hydrogen economy, and the development of a smart city.

We have launched a preliminary study on the hydrogen economy and the utilisation of hydrogen in production. The study aims to produce an overall picture of the hydrogen economy and the possibility of utilising hydrogen at our plants. This is related to several research and development projects together with our partners, e.g. collaboration with the Advanced Energy Project of the Aalto University. The BECCU (Performance chemicals and transportation fuels from bio-CO2 and hydrogen) research project investigates the possibilities of utilising biomass carbon dioxide from the viewpoint of high-value end products. The project examines the possibilities of a hydrogen economy from the viewpoint of Power-to-X. We are also studying the business models of the utilisation of hydrogen.

We are involved in the EU-SysFlex research project. In the energy transition, increasingly larger amounts of renewable energy are connected to the electricity network and, as a result, the power system must be supported effectively with the aid of coordinated flexibility. In the project, we are studying the capability of smaller resources connected to the electricity network, such as electricity storage facilities and electric vehicle charging points, to take part in the flexibility market.

Concepts for future energy systems, where renewable energy forms such as solar and wind energy play a more significant role in total electricity production than at present, are developed in the EU-funded FLEXCHX project (Flexible combined production of power, heat and transport fuels from renewable energy sources) coordinated by VTT. The project seeks the best operating models to balance seasonal fluctuations in electricity and heat production.

Energy efficiency is the backbone of our operations

Combined heat and power (CHP) generation together with district heat and the rapidly increasing district cooling form the basis for an energy-efficient energy system in Helsinki.

We aim to improve energy efficiency by 5.4 per cent from the 2015 level by 2025. We strive to further increase the efficiency of utilising waste heat and recycled heat, to optimise production and to enhance the use of energy for internal consumption at substations.

Significant measures in 2020 were the power upgrade of the Katri Vala heating and cooling plant and improving the efficiency of heat distribution with the optimisation programme and by utilising artificial intelligence. Heat recovery of the internal cooling circulation was implemented at the Salmisaari power plant. We are building a heat pump utilising sea water and process heat at the Vuosaari power plant. The solar panel installed on the roof of the Patola heating plant will reduce the plant’s own consumption, etc. Year 2020 was an intermediate target year of the energy efficiency agreement, and it now seems that the target for 2025 needs to be increased.

In 2020, the efficiency of energy production in the Helen Group was 95.29 per cent (94.25 per cent in 2019). This is due to the increase in the share of lower-emission and more energy-efficient production in addition to the above measures.

The promotion of customers’ energy efficiency is one of the main targets of the energy efficiency agreement. As a result of the updated strategy, the number of new energy efficiency services offered to customers has grown strongly and the net sales are increasing. The selection includes, e.g. ground source heat, property-specific cooling, solar power systems, electric vehicle charging solutions, demand response, virtual battery, Kiinteistövahti that optimises heating, and the basic adjustment of the radiator network. All in all, Helen is investing EUR 100 million in the customers’ energy solutions in the course of the next five years.

See also


Environmental responsibility

Reduction of environmental impacts is an important part of our activities. Our long-term goal is climate-neutral energy production.


Environmental impacts


Climate impacts


Origin and sustainability of energy

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