Energy use

As a procedure to implement a responsible energy policy, the City of Helsinki has set a binding energy saving target for its own operations. The division-specific binding energy saving target for 2020 is 5% of the energy consumption of 2015.

The City of Helsinki’s energy saving work is coordinated by the energy conservation work group appointed in 2018, whose operations continue the work of the advisory board for energy conservation operating 1974–2017. The executive director of the Urban Environment Division serves as the chair of the energy conservation work group, and members have been appointed from all divisions, as well as Helen, Palmia, Stara, the Port of Helsinki, Heka, HKL and HSY.

The production and consumption of energy play significant roles when working towards emissions reductions. Of all CO2 emission of the City, heating accounts for 52% and electricity consumption for 16%. The emissions of the Helsinki Group account for 12% of the emissions of the entire City. Of this percentage, approximately 94% is caused by the energy consumption of buildings.

The Energy Efficiency Directive requires that, starting in 2018, all public buildings must be constructed as near zero-energy buildings. The energy planning instructions for public service buildings, aiming for close to zero energy, have been integrated into the City’s general HVAC design instructions for service buildings. 

The E value targets set by the City of Helsinki for its own new construction projects have been tightened starting from projects launched in the autumn of 2019 to a level that is at least 20% better than the national requirement. The requirements related to the production of renewable energy have been clarified as well. The goal in both new and renovation construction projects is that an amount of electricity that is equivalent to approximately 10% of purchased electricity is produced with solar power if the system is economically viable. In new buildings, geothermal heat has been chosen as the primary heating production method, and its feasibility and economic viability must be surveyed in each project as part of the project planning. In renovation projects, changing the heating method from district heating to geothermal heating, for example, is still considered on a case-by-case basis.

The proportion the City itself accounts for of the consumption of electricity in the Helsinki urban area amounted to 13%, its consumption of heating amounted to 16% and its consumption of district cooling amounted to 3%. The premises owned by the City rarely use separate heating; they are mainly heated using district heating. Because of this, the emissions from the energy consumption of the City premises are created in centralised energy production.

The energy consumption and CO2 emissions of the City in 2018 and 2019 are presented in the table below. The City’s CO2 emissions increased by 10% from the previous year, due to a change in the calculating principle for the emission factor of district heating. In 2019, the majority of the emissions (95%) were caused by the energy consumption of properties. 

 Energy consumption and CO2 emissions of the City in 2018 and 2019

PremisesGWh 2019CO2 2019GWh 2018CO2 2018GWh change, %, 2018-19CO2 change, %, 2018-19
Electricity 41479,144585,1–8  %  –7 % 
Cooling5,000,095,240,32–5 %–72 %
District heating1 0432071 081174–4 %19 %
Premises, total1 4622861 531259–5 %10 %
Outdoor lighting, traffic lightsGWh 2019CO2 2019GWh 2018CO2 2018GWh change, %, 2018-19CO2 change, %, 2018-19
Outdoor lighting43,98,3945,68,70–4 %–4 %
Traffic lights1,240,241,310,25–5 %–5 %
Outdoor lighting, total45,28,6346,98,95–4 %–4 %
Public areasGWh 2019CO2 2019GWh 2018CO2 2018GWh change, %, 2018-19CO2 change, %, 2018-19
Electricity3,150,603,840,73–22 %–18 %
Heating2,400,483,970,64–65%–26 %
Public areas, total5,551,087,811,37–41%–21 %
TrafficGWh 2019CO2 2019GWh 2018CO2 2018GWh change, %, 2018-19CO2 change, %, 2018-19
Metro traffic69,60,068,70,01 %0 %
Tram traffic29,10,032,80,0–13%0 %
Ferry traffic6,731,746,541,653 %5 %
Traffic, total1051,741081,65–3%5 %
Vehicles and machineryGWh 2019CO2 2019GWh 2018CO2 2018GWh change, %, 2018-19CO2 change, %, 2018-19
Vehicles and machinery20,25,2017,804,5912 %13 %
GWh 2019CO2 2019GWh 2018CO2 2018GWh change, %, 2018-19CO2 change, %, 2018-19
All total16383021 712276–5 %10 %

The CO₂ emissions for 2019 have been calculated by using the emission factors of Helen Ltd, which are the following:

  • District heating 198 g/kWh
  • Electricity 191 g/kWh The factor for 2019 is not available
  • Cooling 18 g/kWh

The electricity used by Helsinki City Transport for transport operations is 100% renewable. The specific emissions from district heating and cooling were calculated based on the primary energy method (SFS-EN-15316-4-5) in 2005–2018. Since 2019, the calculations have been based on the benefit distribution method.

The CO₂ emissions for 2018 have been calculated by using the emission factors of Helen Ltd, which are the following:

  • District heating 161 g/kWh
  • Electricity 191 g/kWh
  • Cooling 61 g/kWh

 The total energy consumption of the Helsinki Group in 2019 was at 1,638 GWh, which is 5% less than in 2018. Due to development work on reporting practices and consumption monitoring systems, the 2019 energy consumption information of properties is not fully comparable to that of previous years.

 The district heating consumption of public areas decreased by up to 65% from 2018 due to a relatively warm winter. The consumption of district cooling decreased by 5% from 2018 due to a consumption spike caused by the summer 2018 heat wave. 

District heating amounted to 64% of the City's total consumption (1,045 GWh), electricity amounted to 34% (561 GWh), cooling amounted to 0.3% (5.0 GWh) and fuels amounted to 1.6% (26.9 GWh).  

The energy consumption per capita of the City’s own operations decreased by 4.3% from 2018. CO2 emissions per capita, on the other hand, increased by 8% due to a change in the calculating principle for the emission factor of district heating produced by Helen. Helsinki’s population increased by 0.9% in the same time period. 

The development of the energy consumption of the City's own operations, divided by the City population

The figure presents the development of the energy consumption per capita in the City's own operations and the population of the City in 2006–2016. The population has grown by 16 % during this period. At the same time, energy consumption per capita has decreased by 25 %.

The energy efficiency agreements (KETS) made between the municipalities and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment are used to implement the actions required by the national energy and climate strategy. The instructional energy conservation goal in the municipal energy efficiency agreement of the City of Helsinki for 2017–2025 is a minimum of 7.5% from the level of 2015.

By the end of 2025, the total energy savings achieved by the known new energy efficiency actions of the City will have amounted to approximately 9.8 GWh, which is 16% of the total savings target for the duration of the agreement. Assessing the effects of more energy-efficient construction than the national requirement in new and renovation construction is still in progress, so their energy saving effects have not been taken into account in the reported procedures.

As defined in the intermediate goals of the energy efficiency agreements, the City of Helsinki should have achieved verified energy savings of 32.7 GWh by the end of 2020; 30% of this was achieved by the end of 2019. Achieving the energy savings goals requires systematic implementation of the energy savings actions and investments in the coming years.

In 2019, low-carbon construction was promoted by looking into software on the market for calculating the carbon footprint of the lifecycle of buildings. In early 2020, work began to develop a method for taking the lifecycle carbon footprint and costs into account in the early stages as part of a service premises network survey. In several new construction projects, calculating the lifecycle carbon footprint is already included in the lifecycle planner’s duties.

In early 2019, a lifecycle management model that the compiles the City’s objectives and instructions was piloted in several projects. The model was simplified based on the experiences from the pilots, and the simplified model was put to pilot use in all new projects started in the autumn of 2019. Development of the model continues in terms of further developing the objectives, and work to create similar objectives for renovation projects and the worksite phase is under way.

The City will install solar power stations in connection with new and renovation construction, and as separate investments on existing properties. The peak effect of a typical solar power station is 40–50 kWp. Thanks to solar power, the consumption of a building's purchased electricity is typically reduced by 2–20%.

In 2019, solar power systems were installed in the following service buildings:

  • Roihupelto Metro depot 480 kWp
  • LPK Neulanen 23 kWp
  • Expansion to Vesala comprehensive school 43 kWp
  • Puistopolku comprehensive school 44 kWp
  • Arabia community centre 143 kWp

In 2019, Heka installed solar power systems in five buildings, the total power rating of which is approximately 50 kWp. An exhaust air heat pump was also installed in one building.

In addition to these, power stations are being built in locations such as Liikuntamylly (384 kWp). The campus of Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Myllypuro will get a solar electricity station in multiple stages. New potential sites for solar power are constantly being sought and implemented. When taking into account sites that are known and that will be finished in the near future, an electricity production capacity of approximately 3.5 MW becomes closer to being a reality (in which case the calculated annual production would be around 3.2 GWh).

Solar panels on the roof of Puistopolku elementary school.
Photo: Jussi Hellsten

The Property Manager service piloted in 2018 by Helen and Heka was made available across Finland in 2019. Typically, the service produces 5–10% savings in heating costs. The Property Manager service provides Heka with better information on the conditions of its apartments, enabling the company to improve its residents’ living conditions and increase energy efficiency.

A modern real-time property data platform, called the Nuuka system, was introduced in 2019. Over the course of the year, a total of 600 service properties owned directly by the City were added to the hour-level energy consumption monitoring. Additionally, data sources related to the properties, such as sensors verifying indoor conditions and an application measuring user satisfaction, were integrated into the Nuuka system. The building automation systems of approximately 20 locations were integrated into the Nuuka system, whereby all the automation data points can be read in the system. The goal is to the integrate the building automation systems of a few hundred locations into Nuuka in the coming years.

Over the course of 2019, various trials and development work were launched related to utilising data collected from properties to confirm indoor conditions, ensuring the functionality of building technology systems and joining the electricity demand response market. These trials will continue in 2020.

Over the course of 2019, threats and opportunities related to opening property-related data were surveyed, and based on the survey, development work on an open interface to open data classified as safe to open was started. The energy consumption data of the service buildings was opened in April 2020 in the HRI open data service.

The Energy Wise Cities (Ekat) project continued the work started in 2018 on the energy efficiency and data of service buildings. Possible visualisations of the energy and condition information were charted, building users’ needs were surveyed and two information visualisation trials were started. Existing energy efficiency partnership models and their development needs were charted, after which newly developed models were created and published for piloting. To develop a virtual power plant, a background survey on the buildings’ potential and technical capacities was conducted, after which piloting was started in two service buildings. The objectives of the construction project life cycle management model were clarified and compiled into a visual presentation. In 2020, the project work will focus on piloting and collecting results, as well as communication. The progress of the project can be monitored through the websites and, as well as the project newsletter. The project will be continued through to the end of 2020.

Helen is constantly striving to improve the energy efficiency of its energy production and distribution. Helen's goal for the production and procurement of electricity and heating is to increase the proportion of renewable energy to 25%, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40%, and halve the use of coal by 2025. The use of coal will end completely in 2029 as decreed by the national act on prohibiting the use of coal for energy. Helen's long-term goal is to achieve carbon-neutral energy production by 2035.

In Helen's co-production of district heating and electricity, the consumption of fuel amounted to 11,525 GWh in 2019. This equals 59% of the volume of fuel needed to produce electricity at condensation power plants and heating at property-specific plants. The estimated savings amounted to approximately 7,900 GWh last year, which equals approximately 700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil.

In 2019, the efficiency of Helen's energy system was 94.25%. In 2019, Helen increased the production of renewable energy with wood pellets and heat pumps. The percentage of renewable energy in Helsinki was at the same level as last year, i.e. 12%. In 2019, investment decisions were made on expanding the Katri Vala heat pump plant and the Vuosaari seawater heat pump.

Eyes on the future:

In the budget for 2020, a total of 4.5 million euros is allocated to the effort to increase solar power as included in the Carbon-neutral Helsinki programme. Solar power stations will be built at the City of Helsinki’s owned and new stock of business premises and service buildings.

The City of Helsinki is developing an energy efficiency partnership model in co-operation with other major cities. In the model, a partner company assumes responsibility for the planning and implementation of a building’s energy efficiency procedures and is responsible for the attainment of the energy savings pursued. The model will be piloted in 2020.

The impact of the coronavirus will be observable in the City’s energy consumption. During the pandemic restrictions, Helsinki’s total electricity consumption has decreased by up to 15% compared to normal conditions. A portion of the public sector’s consumption has crossed over to households as services and offices have been closed and people have switched to working from home.