Helsinki searches sustainable city heating solutions: Global one million euro challenge competition launches today

In a drastic turn to eliminate coal as the main source of district heating, The City of Helsinki today kicks off the Helsinki Energy Challenge – a global one million euro competition to find the future of urban heating. With the aim to find a solution sustainable in the long term, 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 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. 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 Mayor of Helsinki, Mr. Jan 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, to name a few.

“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.” says Mr. Vapaavuori.

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.

About the Helsinki Energy Challenge:

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 September 30, 2020. Process and timetable with last updates is available here. 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 awarded with one million euros.

Read more about Helsinki Energy Challenge at the website: www.energychallenge.hel.fi

For more information, please contact:

  • Laura Uuttu-Deschryvere, Project Director, Helsinki Energy Challenge, City of Helsinki, tel. +358 40 717 6415, laura.uuttu-deschryvere@hel.fi
  • Mayor Jan Vapaavuori’s Special Adviser Maira Kettunen, City of Helsinki , tel. +358 50 357 7197, maira.kettunen@hel.fi
www.energychallenge.hel.fi