News / 18.10.2018

Helen ready to phase out coal

Helen is preparing to replace coal in energy production. The Government’s legislative proposal to ban coal, presented today, will accelerate the investment decisions, but it will also prevent utilisation of new, developing technologies.

The Finnish Government has today submitted to Parliament a legislative proposal to ban the use of coal in energy production. According to the proposal, coal will be phased out in energy production during the 2020s.

Helen already started to phase out coal in 2015 by deciding to close the Hanasaari power plant by the end of 2024. As a result of the closure of Hanasaari, 400 MW of heat production capacity will be removed. All in all, Helen's district heat capacity will fall by 870 MW and electricity generation capacity by 380 MW as the use of coal is discontinued.

The first of the plants acting as substitute for the Hanasaari power plant are already generating energy. So far, 114 MW of alternative energy production has been built: a new pellet-fired heating plant in Salmisaari and a new underground heating and cooling plant under the Esplanade Park.

In addition, Helen has decided to expand the Katri Vala heating and cooling plant with one new heat pump, output 18 MW. Finland's largest heat storage facility is currently under construction in the old oil caverns in Mustikkamaa.

More heat production is needed

Helsinki needs more heat production in addition to the plants which have already been implemented and which are currently under construction. Some of the production capacity to be decommissioned can be replaced with energy efficiency measures, heat storage, and demand response.

Currently the fastest way to replace coal on a large scale is the use of biomass. The coal ban will increase the need for biofuels in Finland. The availability of biofuels is a key issue – there is not enough domestic biofuel for everyone. Helen aims to procure biomass from sustainable sources.

"Preliminary studies on the replacement of coal have already been carried out at the Salmisaari combined heat and power plant that uses coal and pellets as fuel. Now that the timetable and contents of the Government's proposal have been confirmed, we can start drafting a more detailed investment plan," says Helen's Head of Unit Janne Rauhamäki.

According to Rauhamäki, the investment decisions for replacing coal must be made within two to three years, especially if it is a question of a plant location with no previous energy production. It is not possible to consider new developing technologies within this timeframe

"The availability of new sites suitable for energy production and the permit procedures for new plants are time consuming processes in the Helsinki region. At the moment, the lead time of new projects may be up to 10 years," Rauhamäki points out.

Helen is currently studying the possibility of building bioenergy heating plants in Patola, Tattarisuo and Vuosaari. No investment decisions on the bioenergy heating plants have been made yet. In order to replace the Hanasaari power plant production, 1–2 bioenergy heating plants are needed.

Helen will invest half a billion euros in low-emission production in the next few years.

Emissions reduction is a priority

Helen believes that a strong emissions trading system should be the primary steering mechanism to reduce emissions in the EU area.

All Helen's power plants are within the EU's emissions trading scheme, which means that the national measure aimed at the emissions trading sector will reduce Finland's regional emissions, but not emissions in the EU. In order for the coal ban to achieve genuine reductions in carbon dioxide emissions in the EU area, the government must commit itself to cancelling the corresponding, freed emission allowances. The reform of the emissions trading legislation provides scope for this, but it has not been directly tied to the proposed coal ban legislation. The cancellation must not be left to the political discretion of future governments.


Helen's targets:

  • Helen strives for climate-neutral energy production.
  • Helen's 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 use of coal.
  • Helen is already investing a total of some half a billion euros in low-emission energy production in the next few years.
  • Practically all possible means are in use or being studied, including
    • Heat pumps, recycling of energy, and utilisation of waste heat
    • Biofuels
    • Other increase in renewable energy in production (power upgrades in hydro power, wind power)
    • Energy storage: in addition to existing heat and cooling storage facilities, e.g. Finland's largest heat storage facility under construction in Mustikkamaa. The world's first seasonal thermal energy storage facility of its kind for Kruunuvuorenranta is also being studied.
    • Improvement of energy efficiency in properties with new digital solutions
    • Solar energy solutions (own solar power plants and those to be built for customers)
    • Services in electric traffic
    • Electricity storage facilities
    • Demand response solutions for heat and electricity
    • Improvement of energy efficiency: own production, distribution + customers
    • Cooperation in heat production with nearby areas (Vantaa, Espoo, Kilpilahti).

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