Electricity from heat pumps, combined with a shift to renewables in district heat networks, emerged as the winning technologies to drive the Finnish capital’s transition to carbon neutrality by 2035.
Finland has “a very strict target” to become carbon neutral by 2035 and the same goal applies to its capital city, said Kaisa-Reeta Koskinen, manager at the Carbon Neutral Helsinki project.
Helsinki has a huge challenge decarbonising its district heating system, which is currently entirely fuelled with coal and gas, she told a EURACTIV virtual event on 20 May.
District heating systems are networks of hot water pipelines that distribute heat directly to people’s homes. Once installed, they are versatile enough to be fed with any locally-available source of energy, making them an invaluable asset in the energy transition.
“More than 90% of buildings in Helsinki are connected to the district heating system,” which is powered by two coal and two gas combustion plants, Koskinen said. And even though those are efficient cogeneration facilities – producing electricity and heat at the same time – the related carbon emissions will have to be completely eliminated by 2035.
In addition, coal will be banned from energy production in Finland as of 2029, which makes the decarbonisation challenge even more daunting, Koskinen said.
To reach its goals, the city launched a competition with a €1 million prize for those who will find the best solution to decarbonise the Finnish capital’s heating system.