Helsinki Energy Challenge helps create the future of heating

With the Helsinki Energy Challenge, the Finnish capital recognises innovations that offer new solutions for the city’s heating system, which accounts for more than half of Helsinki’s total emissions.

Helsinki, with its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2035, is one of the world’s leading cities in the fight against climate change. At the heart of the battle is the heating system, as its emissions account for more than half of the city’s total emissions.

The City of Helsinki arranged the year-long international Helsinki Energy Challenge to find future-proof solutions to heat the city during decades to come. The organisers intend to share the solutions so that cities everywhere can benefit, and declared, “Together, we will create the future of heating, to fight global warming.”

An international jury chose four winners from ten finalists. The winning proposals, announced in March 2021, illustrate how complex and diverse the challenge is. Diverse approaches are necessary to achieve a flexible, resilient system.

The winners are:

HIVE (Helsinki Innovative and Versatile Energies), a flexible plan based on proven technologies and solutions, such as seawater heat pumps, electrical boilers, solar thermal fields and demand-side management measures; the plan is capable of integrating new technologies if and when they emerge.

Beyond Fossils, an energy transition model based on open and technology neutral clean heating auctions, paving the way to a carbon-neutral Helsinki in a flexible way that enables innovation.

Smart Salt City, a solution that melds novel thermochemical energy storage and artificial intelligence with commercially available energy technologies.

Helsinki’s Hot Heart, a flexible system made of ten floating reservoirs filled with ten million cubic metres of hot seawater that can receive different energy sources as input. Four of the cylindrical tanks that make up Helsinki’s Hot Heart would be enclosed with inflatable roof structures to create a new leisure attraction.