News / 16.3.2021

Helen congratulates the winners of Helsinki Energy Challenge and invites the winning teams to a discussion!

Today, the City of Helsinki announced the winners of the Helsinki Energy Challenge. The competition searched for fresh solutions to a tricky dilemma that Helen is also solving: how to heat Helsinki after giving up coal? Helen is delighted by the variety of suggested solutions and would like to warmly congratulate the winners.

Helen’s goal is to make energy production in Helsinki completely carbon neutral by 2035. Meeting this goal requires rethinking the energy system, since energy is produced, stored and recycled using a wide range of methods.

The wide spectrum of solutions is also delightfully present in the winning entries of the Helsinki Energy Challenge, which relate to decentralized energy production, developing a market model for the district heating network, energy storage and production-related technological solutions.

“We want to thank the City of Helsinki for organizing this competition. It has proven to be a great way to look for new openings. The competition entries outstandingly reflect the fact that a carbon neutral future relies on the parallel use of many green technologies,” said the CEO of Helen, Juha-Pekka Weckström.

In addition to the parallel use of different technologies, a carbon neutral future will also require the collaborative effort of different operators.

“For instance, a district heating and cooling network should be seen a bit like public transport. It’s smarter to use one shared infrastructure rather than build several overlapping ones. This is also well represented by the Helsinki Energy Challenge solutions. They have really understood that the existing network provides an excellent platform for developing new solutions. We are interested in discussing commercial partnerships that complement Helen's solutions and therefore improve the customer experience,” ponders Weckström.

In part, the winning solutions in the competition follow the same kind of development paths that Helen has conceived, but there are also new ways of thinking involved. Some of Helen’s plans have already been put into action: step by step, the energy infrastructure is being converted to meet the needs of a carbon neutral future. There are subterranean heat pump facilities on Esplanadi and in Sörnäinen, and the vast thermal caves in Mustikkamaa will start operation this summer. Similar facilities are also planned for Kruunuvuorenranta. Helen’s first heat pump that can also utilize heat from seawater is under construction in Vuosaari. Additionally, Helen has projects related to recovering industrial waste heat and using geothermal wells.

“We will halve our consumption of coal by 2025 and cease its use entirely by 2029. We will be 100% carbon neutral by 2035. We will implement this change by using solutions that are not based on combustion. Even though our plans are at an advanced stage, it is clear that further new measures are required to solve this shared challenge. For this reason, we can’t wait to learn more about these competition entries and the new points of view presented in them,” says Weckström.

Helen invites the winning teams to collide ideas

Helen’s teams of experts will now research the new solutions together with the winning teams of the Helsinki Energy Challenge. That’s why, in the coming weeks, Helen will invite all of the winning teams to discuss the subject further. The discussions will continue in close co-operation with the City of Helsinki.

“We want to collide the ideas of the winning teams and Helen’s experts. Who knows, maybe we’ll come up with some brand new ideas on the way to carbon neutrality. We promise to keep all Helsinki residents up to date on the progress of the collaboration – this is where the work starts,” Weckström concludes.

Helen is open to various partnerships that, in addition to reaching carbon neutrality, drive Helen towards improving customer relationships, an even better customer experience, and to digitize and streamline operations.

Facts: What is the Helsinki Energy Challenge?

A competition organized by the City of Helsinki to find solutions to replace coal as an energy source. The winning entries were awarded EUR 1 million in total. The competition received 252 entries from 35 countries. The panel of judges selected four winning solutions:

  • HIVE: A comprehensive, flexible plan on heating the city using different distributed production solutions.
  • Beyond fossils: A plan based on open and technology-neutral heat production auctions aimed at creating a new market model for the district heating network
  • Smart Salt City: A plan combining entirely new energy storage technologies and AI-based electrical heating technologies.
  • The Hot Heart: A proposal for an energy island used for producing and storing energy and in addition to another purpose of use.

Facts: Helen on the road to carbon neutrality

  • Helen has set the target of becoming carbon neutral by 2035. The carbon neutrality will be implemented in stages using different solutions.
  • Helen will already significantly reduce its use of carbon during the 2022–2023 heating period, with the power station in Hanasaari switching to backup use. Coal use will be halved by 2025, with the power station in Hanasaari due to be closed in 2024. Helen’s energy production emissions will be reduced by at least 40% by the end of 2024 at the very latest.
  • Reducing the use of coal in stages, Helen will stop using coal entirely by 2029 at the latest.
  • Helen will develop and actively research new carbon neutral energy solutions and production methods. Amongst other things, Helen is currently investigating ways to utilize waste heat at the Kilpilahti industrial area, use heat in seawater with heat pumps, along with using small-scale nuclear power.

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