News

Committing to carbon-neutral district heating, geothermal key element in Espoo, Finland

Committing to carbon neutral district heating in Espoo, Finland (source: Fortum)
Alexander Richter 31 Jan 2020

The clean energy company Fortum and the city of Espoo in Finland have committed to make the district heating system of the city carbon-neutral this decade with geothermal from the planned Otaniemi geothermal plant as a key ingredient, besides waste heat and a bioheating facility.

In a release this week, Fortum, a clean energy company, and the City of Espoo in Finland have committed to carbon-neutral district heating production in the district heating network operating in the Espoo, Kauniainen and Kirkkonummi regions in the 2020s. The district heating network supplies heat to 250,000 end users in homes and offices.

The development work that began in 2016 was accelerated last autumn when a new intermediate goal was set to discontinue the use of coal in 2025. The accelerated carbon-neutrality project is called Espoo Clean Heat.

On 29 January 2020, Espoo Mayor Jukka Mäkelä and Fortum CEO Pekka Lundmark signed a new agreement that continues the implementation of shared energy targets and the development of urban solutions.

“Making district heating carbon neutral is Espoo’s most significant climate action, and it will help us to achieve our goal to be a carbon-neutral city by 2030. For Espoo, it’s important to be a frontrunner also in energy issues, and we value the good collaboration with Fortum,” Mäkelä says.

“A transition to clean energy is necessary to curb climate change, and we at Fortum want to accelerate the transition with innovative solutions. Decisive advancements towards carbon-neutral district heating and being a frontrunner in our home field in Espoo are a matter of honour for us. I’m pleased with the good collaboration with the City of Espoo because the city is in a key position as an enabler of this change,” Lundmark says.

Waste heat utilisation, geothermal energy, and smart solutions

The production of carbon-neutral district heating in Espoo made advancements during the last decade by using waste heat from wastewater, for example. Last year about one quarter of the production was already carbon-neutral, and this year the share will increase to 40% when the Kivenlahti bioheating facility and the Otaniemi geothermal plant are commissioned and when one of the two coal-fired units is decommissioned at the Suomenoja power plant. According to the plan, decommissioning the last coal-fired unit will raise the share of carbon-neutral district heating production to 85% in 2025. The focus in finding alternative solutions is primarily on combustion-free solutions.

Fortum and the City of Espoo are working together to find suitable locations for data centre operations and to attract data centre operators to Espoo. A data centre generates a lot of waste heat that can be utilised in the district heating network. Waste heat from a large, 100-MW data centre could provide heat for as much as one third of the district heating network in the Espoo, Kauniainen and Kirkkonummi region.

“At best, a data centre player could operate in a carbon-negative way if the electricity it uses is carbon neutral and the waste heat it provides were to replace fossil-based district heat production. For data centre operators, ecological operations are key,” says Fortum’s Pasi Kokko, Head of Customer, Heating and Cooling Finland.

In addition to the fast emissions reduction in production, Fortum is also working to develop system-level energy efficiency in Espoo through smart demand-response solutions to direct heat to where it is most needed during peak consumption. This reduces production peaks during consumption spikes and reduces emissions.

“All the Espoo Asunnot apartments are already connected to the system, and discussions are under way to get schools, daycare facilities and other city’s real estate connected to the system,” says Pasi Laitala, Director for Sustainable Development, City of Espoo.”

The Otaniemi geothermal plant is the innovative geothermal project in development by St1, which we have been reporting on over the years.

Source: Fortum release