In the next few years, Helen will make significant investments in reducing emissions and increasing the share of renewable energy. Helen aims to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions of energy production by 40 per cent by 2025 compared with the 1990 levels. The use of coal will be halved at the same time. The longer-term target is climate-neutral energy production.
An investment programme worth hundreds of millions of euros is currently under way. Finland’s largest pellet-fired boiler producing renewable district heat was completed in Salmisaari in February. Helen already has the world’s largest heating and cooling plant of its kind. Moreover, a new industrial-scale heating and cooling plant, which will further increase the utilisation of excess heat in district heat production, is currently under construction. In March, Helen took an investment decision on building a gigantic underground cavern heat storage facility in Mustikkamaa in Helsinki. The investment will reduce the use of oil by more than one million litres a year.
Helen is preparing to phase out the coal-fired Hanasaari power plant, and it is currently investigating the options of building three new bioenergy heating plants in various parts of Helsinki. The current plans for exploring various alternatives include areas in Vuosaari, Patola and Tattarisuo.
“At the moment, biomass is the fastest and practically the only large scale method of replacing coal. However, it presents challenges especially in the Helsinki region where the demand for energy is huge on the Finnish scale and there is a shortage of space suitable for energy production. The energy production volumes in Helsinki are so high that it is not possible to source the necessary biomass volumes in Finland, and therefore a substantial proportion has to be imported. In large-scale biomass use, issues related to availability and acceptability must also be taken into account,” says unit head Janne Rauhamäki who is responsible for Helen’s development projects on energy production.
Staged investments with the aid of new technologies
Helen intends to make investments aiming for climate-neutral energy production in phases in order to ensure that the possibilities offered by new technologies are utilised as effectively as possible and to keep the district heat prices at a competitive level. The objective is to totally eliminate the use of coal in energy production in the 2030s.
Helen has presented five solutions for a climate neutral future:
1. The role of city residents is growing. The residents also become energy producers with the increase of solar and electricity storage solutions and various hybrid heating systems.
2. Excess heat is recovered more efficiently. In the future, energy is not wasted, but it is recycled as far as possible.
3. Flexibility is needed. As a result of the significant increase of solar and wind power in the electricity market, the production of which varies according to the weather, various flexibilities in both the production and use of energy are needed alongside them.
4. Moving from fossil fuels to X economy via bioeconomy. Bioeconomy is an intermediate stage in the process of moving from fossil fuels to climate-neutral production.
5. Investing in research, development, education and innovations.