Helsinki’s million euro energy challenge seeks global answers to local problem

The capital wants to find ways to become truly sustainable, not just carbon-neutral, when coal-fired power stations close down in the coming years.

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Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori (NCP) launches the Helsinki Energy Challenge, 27th February 2020 / Credit: City of Helsinki

The city of Helsinki has launched a competition with a one million euro prize pot, to find a sustainable heating solution for the capital.

Mayor Jan Vapaavuori (NCP) is hoping innovators from around the world will be lured by the prize money to come up with new ways to make urban heating not just carbon-free but truly sustainable.

“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” Vapaavuori explained at the launch of the Helsinki Energy Challenge competition on Thursday.

“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” he said.

Helsinki aims to be carbon-neutral by 2035, but more than half of its carbon emissions come from heating. The competition calls for entries who can figure out how to still heat homes, without using biomass energy, after the Hanasaari coal-fired power station closes in 2024, and the Salmisaari coal-fired power station closes in 2029.

“We really want to make an impact, not only locally but also globally” says the mayor.

After an initial call for solutions – from companies, start-ups, universities or individual experts – the finalists will come to Helsinki for a three-day boot camp to work on their proposals.

An international jury of experts will decide on the winning solution which will claim the million euro prize in November this year.

WATCH: Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori explains more about the Energy Challenge: