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Helsinki launches global €1 million sustainable energy challenge

The Finnish capital wants to find a way of replacing coal with carbon-neutral and low-biomass solutions, and is challenging other cities to join the quest.

Helsinki is aiming to be carbon-neutral by 2035
Helsinki is aiming to be carbon-neutral by 2035

Finland’s capital city, Helsinki, has announced an international energy competition in a bid to find a sustainable alternative to coal.


Helsinki’s goal is to be carbon-neutral by 2035. Currently, more than half of Helsinki’s carbon dioxide emissions originate from the production of energy used for heating.


Carbon-neutrality target


Reaching the carbon-neutrality target requires, in addition to other actions, that the emissions originating from the production of heat are reduced significantly.


The €1 million Helsinki Energy Challenge seeks to find ways to replace coal with carbon-neutral and low-biomass solutions as far as possible.


The Finnish government has ruled to ban the burning of coal for energy production by 2029.


As more than half of all the heating energy used in Helsinki is still produced using coal, this ban will have a major impact on the city.


Helsinki said it does not want to settle for the most obvious solution and replace the use of coal with biomass, because biomass is not a problem-free and sustainable energy source either.


According to authorities, this is due to carbon dioxide emissions and biodiversity issues and to questions related to the availability and transport of biomass.


The competition is designed to provide all parties with an equal opportunity to bring their solutions to the table for evaluation on the same terms.


It invites solution and technology developers globally to propose their ideas. The Helsinki Energy Challenge will be open for companies, consortiums, research institutions and universities. Interdisciplinary and innovative discussions are also being encouraged to challenge the most obvious solutions in energy production.


“Climate change is the most crucial challenge of our time and Helsinki is one of the leading cities championing the fight against it.”


Helsinki is challenging other cities to participate and work to solve the issue of emissions-free heating too. In addition to solving Helsinki’s own challenge, the Helsinki Energy Challenge also seeks to find solutions with potential to solve global decarbonisation targets beyond Helsinki and Finland.


“Climate change is the most crucial challenge of our time and Helsinki is one of the leading cities championing the fight against it. The Helsinki Energy Challenge aims to find solutions for Helsinki but also more broadly for other cities around the world,” said Jan Vapaavuori, Mayor of Helsinki.


“Our partners will play a key role in achieving this goal. The C40 network collaborates with the challenge already at the development phase. World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council is one of our partners in ensuring our success and the global relevance of the Challenge.”


A start date and registration details for the competition will be available soon. The planned duration of the competition is approximately one year.


The background information of Helsinki’s current heating system has been published on the Helsinki Energy Challenge website so anyone interested in the topic can start preparing for the competition.


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