Could you heat Helsinki?

Jon Lawson

What’s the future of urban heating? The Finnish capital has launched the Helsinki Energy Challenge - a global one million Euro competition to find a sustainable solution in the long term, but ideas presented must not rely on fossil fuel or biomass fired heating.

With the aim of becoming carbon-neutral by 2035 and with coal banned from energy production in Finland from 2029, Helsinki is strongly dedicated to the decarbonisation of cities. Several cities already have ambitious plans to reduce carbon emissions. The City of Helsinki takes things one step further in declaring that it will not rely on biomass-fired heating, making the city's energy production not just fossil free, but truly sustainable.

In line with the strong commitment to decarbonisation, Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori is taking radical action by launching a global one million euro challenge competition, urging innovators from around the world to propose game-changing solutions for the future of urban heating.

"Solving the urban heating challenge is crucial to reach global climate goals. Cities have a key role to play in the transition to a low carbon economy, and Helsinki is now taking an initiative to lead the way. We invite innovators from all around the world to use our city as a testbed to develop not just fossil free, but truly sustainable, solutions. Together, we will create the future of heating to fight global warming," says Vapaavuori.

The goal of the challenge is to find solutions that can be implemented in Helsinki by 2029 and that potentially could contribute to decarbonising city heating around the world. The City of Helsinki is committed to openly sharing the solutions and knowhow gathered from the challenge. Cities such as Toronto, Amsterdam, Vancouver, and Leeds as well as organisations like the World Economic Forum's Global Future Council and C40 City Solutions Platform, are already supporting the initiative.

"Climate change is a global crisis that will not be solved by quick fixes. With over half of the city's heat coming from coal, we hope that our shift to sustainable energy can help inspire other cities and act as a real life case that a transition is possible. Taking this next step might lead to a revolutionary breakthrough in our pursuit for a more sustainable city life." 

The scope of Helsinki's heating system allows for a range of solutions, from large to small scale, but the ideal combination of solutions is yet to be found. The winning proposal could just as well include technological and business model innovations, as it could be a solution requiring system-level transformation. Proposed solutions will be evaluated based on climate impact, impact on natural resources, cost, implementation schedule, implementation feasibility, reliability and security of supply and capacity.


 

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