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CEO Juha-Pekka Weckström: Helen is committed to Helsinki’s ambitious climate targets of carbon neutrality in 2030 and zero emissions in 2040

The City of Helsinki today published the Mayor’s proposal for the new City Strategy. For Helen and the City of Helsinki, the ambitious climate targets mean an opportunity to set an example in the mitigation of climate change and to act as a global forerunner.

In the proposal published today, Helsinki’s City Strategy set out a carbon neutrality target for 2030 instead of the previous target of 2035. The zero emissions target was set for year 2040. In terms of energy production, the strategy outlined that there will no longer be any investments in new bioenergy plants and that preparations must be made for phasing out the use of coal in Salmisaari already before 2029.

“Helen regards the objectives of the proposed City Strategy as excellent and inspiring, and we are fully committed to them. The carbon neutral 2030 target will definitely be achieved. The plans for replacing coal in Salmisaari are taking shape as several solutions meet both the technical and the economic requirements. The objective is that the solution is not based on combustion,” says Helen’s CEO Juha-Pekka Weckström.

Helen has already previously made a decision to close the Hanasaari coal-fired power plant two years ahead of schedule in spring 2023. Now Helen is preparing for the shutdown of the Salmisaari coal-fired power plant already before 2029. The production will mainly be replaced with non-combustion-based energy sources, such as various waste and environmental heat sources. Helen will achieve zero emissions by the end of the 2030s, which also means studying small modular reactors as one option in partial replacement of natural gas.

Emissions reduction continues on market terms

Helen’s pace of emissions reduction has been very fast in the past few years. The previous target to reduce 20 per cent of emissions by 2020 in comparison with the 1990 level has been achieved. In terms of district heat, the pace has been even faster: emissions have been cut by about 35 per cent in the same period of time. At the same time, heat production has grown by more than 20 per cent.

Helen regards it particularly important that fossil fuels are phased out cost-effectively while safeguarding the competitiveness of district heat. In the future, the price of carbon-neutral district heat will not be burdened by taxation on fossil fuels or the price of emission allowances.

“We are pleased to see that the climate and energy policies in the City Strategy have focused on the targets and that there are no forecasts on the best emissions reduction methods of the future. The best tools in accelerating climate measures are emissions trading mechanisms operating on market terms: they will automatically steer fossil fuels out of the market and reduce emissions. The current price trend in emissions trading is an unquestionable proof of this. It is also great that the City’s climate programme focuses on emissions reduction and the operators are left with a choice of options with regard to the technology,” says Weckström.

Joint climate work continues through the City’s climate programme. Helen sees the Carbon Neutral Helsinki programme as an important format where measures that Helen is responsible for play a big role. From Helen’s perspective, it is important that the knowledge-base of decision-making is founded on an updated situational picture, data and analysis. These will help to see the impacts of climate measures already taken by Helen and other operators on the reduction of emissions, and they will be taken into account when setting new measures and targets.

Significance of e-mobility increases

The City Strategy also takes a stand on the development of e-mobility. The objective is to strengthen the electric vehicle infrastructure and reduce the number of combustion engine cars in the urban area. The strategy also outlines that sufficient EV charging possibilities promote the functionality of city and population centres and the achievement of climate targets.

“For Helen, zero emissions 2040 means immense opportunities from the viewpoint of e-mobility. Combustion engine cars will become a thing of the past. It is time for e-mobility to move to bigger solutions in the planning and implementation of the charging infrastructure,” Weckström says.

Published: 12.10.2021 08:06
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