In a drastic turn to eliminate coal as the main source of district heating, The City of Helsinki has launched the Helsinki Energy Challenge – a global one million euro competition to find the future of urban heating.
Courtesy of the City of Helsinki
Ideas presented in the competition must not rely on fossil fuel or biomass. Helsinki is aiming to become carbon neutral by 2035 and to that end will ban coal from energy production in Finland from 2029. 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 city’s strong commitment to decarbonisation, Helsinki Mayor Mr. 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” said Mr Vapaavuori. “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. 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 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, to name a few.
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.
The Helsinki Energy Challenge is a challenge competition, open globally to anyone who can propose a sustainable heating solution for Helsinki – consortiums, start-ups, larger and more established companies, research institutions, universities, research groups and individual experts. The only requirement is that participants should join the competition as a team.
The challenge is open for submissions from February 27, 2020 until May 31, 2020. By early July, finalists will be invited to a co-creation phase, which includes a 3-day boot camp, where they are provided support to develop their proposals, before presenting them to an international jury of experts who will name the winner(s). The winning solution(s) will be presented in November and awarded with one million euros.