Energy efficiency

The production and consumption of energy play significant roles in achieving the carbon neutrality target. The consumption of district heating accounts for 53% of the CO2 emissions of the entire city (urban area), while electricity consumption accounts for 16%. The CO2 emissions of the Helsinki Group account for 14% of the emissions of the entire urban area. Of this percentage, 95% is caused by the energy consumption of buildings.

Helsinki’s energy conservation work is based on the Carbon-neutral Helsinki 2035 Action Plan as well as energy conservation plans prepared by the City’s divisions, enterprises and subsidiary communities. Helsinki has been involved in the energy efficiency agreements (KETS) made between municipalities and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment since 1993. These agreements are used to implement the measures required by the national energy and climate strategy at the municipal level. For more information on the City’s energy efficiency work, see the website.

More energy-efficient construction than the national requirement 

For several years, it has been required for the City’s own new buildings to be made more energy-efficient than the national requirement. In 2020, the required E value of service building projects was 20% stricter than the national requirement. At the beginning of 2020, an energy efficiency requirement was also set for the building improvement projects implemented by the City. It requires the E value of the service building to improve by at least 30% in conjunction with a building improvement project. This requirement is 10 percentage points stricter than the national requirement.

The goal in both new construction and building improvement projects was still for an amount of electricity equivalent to approximately 10% of purchased electricity to be produced with solar power if the system is economically viable. In new buildings, geothermal heat was selected as the primary form of heat generation if it was possible to implement and economically viable based on a survey conducted during the project planning phase. In building improvement projects, changing the heating method from district heating to geothermal heating, for example, was still considered on a case-by-case basis.

Energy consumption causes considerable carbon dioxide emissions

The City accounted for 13% of the consumption of electricity, 17% of the consumption of heat and 3% of the consumption of district cooling in the entire Helsinki urban area. The properties owned by the City rarely use separate heating; they are mainly heated using district heating, meaning that the emissions from energy production are generated by centralised energy production.

The energy consumption and CO2 emissions of the Helsinki Group in 2019 and 2020 are presented in the table below. The Helsinki Group’s CO2 emissions decreased by 18%, while energy consumption decreased by 10% from 2019. The decrease in CO2 emissions is partly explained by the decrease in Helen Ltd’s emission factors for electricity and district heating, which were used in the calculation.

Tables 2-7. Energy consumption and CO2 emissions of the Helsinki Group in 2019 and 2020.

Premises (owned by the City)GWh, 2019CO2 kilotonnes, 2019GWh, 2020CO2 kilo-tonnes, 2020GWh change%, 2019-2020CO2 change%, 2019-2020
Electricity18553,819047,03 %-13 %
Cooling2,090,042,670,0028 %> 100 %
District heating3747632961-12 %-19 %
Total562129521108-7 %-16 %
Premises, Other (subsidiaries)GWh, 2019CO2 kilotonnes, 2019GWh, 2020CO2 kilo-tonnes, 2020GWh change%, 2019-2020CO2 change%, 2019-2020
Electricity2316720550,6-11 %-25 %
Cooling2,770,052,320-16 %>100 %
District heating877177782146-11 %-17 %
Total1111244989197-11 %-19 %
Outdoor lighting, traffic
GWh, 2019CO2 kilotonnes, 2019GWh, 2020CO2 kilo-tonnes, 2020GWh change%, 2019-2020CO2 change%, 2019-2020
Outdoor lighting, electricity43,912,7442,810,58-3 %-17 %
Traffic lights, electricity1,240,361,180,29-5 %-19 %
Total45,213,14410,87-3 %-17 %
Public areasGWh, 2019CO2 kilotonnes, 2019GWh, 2020CO2 kilotonnes, 2020GWh change%, 2019-2020CO2 change%, 2019-2020
Electricity3,150,913,250,83 %-12 %
Heating2,40,481,340,25-44 %-48 %
Total5,551,44,591,05-17 %-25 %
TrafficGWh, 2019CO2 kilotonnes, 2019GWh, 2020CO2 kilotonnes, 2020GWh change%, 2019-2020CO2 change%, 2019-2020
Metro traffic, electricity 100% renewable69,60650-7 % 
Tram traffic, electricity 100% renewable29,1025,10-14 % 
Ferry traffic, fuel energy6,731,746,641,71-1 %-1 %
Total1051,7496,71,71-8 %-1 %
Vehicles and machineryGWh, 2019CO2 kilotonnes, 2019GWh, 2020CO2 kilotonnes, 2020GWh change%, 2019-2020CO2 change%, 2019-2020
Vehicles and machinery20,25,217,64,1-13 %-21 %
GWh, 2019CO2 kilotonnes, 2019GWh, 2020CO2 kilotonnes, 2020GWh change%, 2019-2020CO2 change%, 2019-2020
TOTAL18493951673323-10 %-18 %

The CO₂ emissions for 2020 have been calculated by using the emission factors of Helen Ltd, which are the following:

  • District heating 187 g/kWh
  • Electricity 247 g/kWh (Factor for 2019, the factor for 2020 is not available)
  • Cooling 0 g/kWh

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

  • District heating 202 g/kWh
  • Electricity 290 g/kWh (Factor for 2018, the factor for 2019 is not available)
  • Cooling 18 g/kWh

In 2020, the majority of emissions (95%) were caused by the energy consumption of properties. Due to the updating of reporting practices and consumption monitoring systems, the 2019 and 2020 data on the energy consumption and CO2 emissions of properties is not comparable to the data on previous years. Product-specific emission factors for energy products were utilised in the emissions calculation for 2020. For the time being, properties’ green electricity contracts have not been taken into account in calculations.

The district heating consumption of both properties and public areas decreased by 10% from 2019 due to a relatively warm winter. Faults were detected in de-icing equipment in 2020, which also lowered the district heating consumption of public areas for its part. The district cooling consumption of service buildings increased due to the increased number of cooled sites. The electricity consumption of outdoor lighting and traffic lights has continued to decrease thanks to systematic energy efficiency measures.

The energy consumption of metro and rail transport decreased by almost 10% from 2019 due to changes caused by COVID-19 in transport arrangements as well as the use of a driver advisory system (DAS).

District heating accounted for 66% of the City's total consumption (1,122 GWh), while electricity accounted for 32% (532 GWh), cooling accounted for 0.3% (5.0 GWh) and fuels accounted for 1.4% (24.2 GWh).

Per capita energy consumption continues to decrease

The per capita energy consumption of the City’s own operations has decreased by 11% from 2019. The graph below shows the trends in the per capita energy consumption of the City’s own operations for the last 15 years. During the period in question, per capita energy consumption has decreased by 25%. The energy consumption data for 2019 and 2020 is more comprehensive than in the reporting system used from 2006 to 2018, which is why in reality the reduction achieved in per capita energy consumption during the period examined is greater than presented here.

Picture 6. The development of the per capita energy consumption in the City of Helsinki's own operations and the population of the city in 2006–2020.

Closer consumption monitoring and emissions calculation 

The properties under the direct ownership of the City have been connected to the Nuuka system, and their energy consumption is monitored on an hourly basis. The Nuuka system covers approximately one third of the energy consumption of the Helsinki Group’s properties. The energy consumption of Helsinki City Housing Company Heka accounts for approximately 56% of the consumption of the Helsinki Group’s properties. The energy consumption of the buildings owned by Heka is monitored on a monthly basis. Heka’s building electricity has been generated 100% by renewable energy sources since 1 September 2020, which will be taken into account in emissions calculation in the coming years.

The consumption data for the entire Helsinki Group is obtained from Helen Ltd’s information system, from which it is retrieved based on a property’s connections. Consumption is reported as the total consumption of the locations of use. The list of properties is based on Facta, the building register of Helsinki, from which the properties belonging to the Helsinki Group were picked. The reporting practice deviates from the previous years for 2019 and 2020.

Approximately 41% of the energy conservation target has been achieved 

Helsinki is committed to an energy conservation target of 61 GWh in the municipal energy efficiency agreement (KETS), while subsidiary companies of the City that own rental apartments are committed to an energy conservation target of 55.7 GWh in the energy efficiency agreement for rental apartments (VAETS) during the contract period 2017–2025. The contractual obligations are implemented with energy conservation measures, the energy conservation effects of which are reported to Motiva annually.

By the end of 2025, the total energy savings achieved by the known energy efficiency actions (KETS + VAETS) of the City will have amounted to approximately 48 GWh, which is approximately 41% of the total conservation target for the entire contract period. The assessment of the effects of more energy-efficient construction than the national requirement in new and renovation construction is partly still in progress, so the energy conservation effects of all projects have not been taken into account in the reported measures.

Measures for improving energy efficiency

The piloting of the service building lifecycle management model that compiles the City’s targets and instructions was continued in 2020 by updating the targets and monitoring report. The preparation of corresponding targets for building improvement projects and the worksite phase is also underway.

In spring 2020, a tender procedure was carried out for a framework agreement on lifecycle planning in building construction projects for the Buildings and Public Areas service entity. This framework agreement makes it possible to obtain top-class expertise in energy and heat pumps, as well as carbon footprint calculation, for future projects. The purpose of lifecycle planning is to ensure that the City’s energy efficiency and low-carbon targets will be taken into account in all construction projects of the City.

Planning guidelines promoting energy efficiency and increased use of renewable energy in construction projects were published in 2020. A method was also developed for taking the lifecycle carbon footprint and costs into account in the early stages as part of a service premises network survey, and a process description was formed about the integration of carbon footprint calculation into the lifecycle management of facility projects. Lifecycle carbon footprint calculation is included in the lifecycle planner’s duties in all new service building projects. Completed carbon footprint calculations are being compiled into an information bank to support target setting and design control.

The City will install solar power stations in connection with new and renovation construction projects, and as separate investments on existing properties. Surveys related to the profitability of solar power systems were continued in 2020. New solar power systems were installed in service buildings, for a total of 365 MWh. The largest of them in terms of electrical power is Liikuntamylly (380 kWp). The City’s subsidiary companies also invested in solar power in 2020. For example, the Port of Helsinki has new solar power systems in Vuosaari and the West Harbour. Their total annual output is 145 GWh.

Every year, Heka procures solar power stations and three exhaust air heat pumps for five locations. The number of Heka’s electric car charging points exceeded 100 in 2020. Heka has set the achievement of the VAET targets as a performance bonus criterion, which has enhanced the implementation of energy efficiency measures and reporting for its part.

In 2020, the features and use of the smart property data platform called the Nuuka system were developed, and issues related to the quality of data were sorted out. The system’s hourly energy consumption monitoring covers the service properties under the direct ownership of the City, for a total of over 600 properties. Additionally, data sources related to the properties, such as sensors verifying indoor conditions, were integrated into the Nuuka system. The building automation systems of a little over 20 locations were integrated into the Nuuka system. This allows various control processes to be adopted to optimise the indoor conditions and energy efficiency. The goal is to integrate the building automation systems of a few hundred locations into Nuuka in the coming years.

Various trials and development work to utilise data collected from properties were continued in 2020 to ensure the indoor conditions of properties and the functionality of building services systems and to join the electricity demand response market, but no actual results were achieved for the time being due to COVID-19 restrictions imposed on the use of buildings. For more information on projects and trials, see the website.

In energy generation, investments were made in solutions that reduce emissions

Together with district heating and district cooling, which is seeing rapid growth, cogeneration of electricity and heating forms the basis of an energy-efficient energy system in Helsinki.

Helen Ltd’s goal is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40% from the 1990 level, increase the percentage of renewable energy to 25% and reduce the use of coal by half by 2025. Preparations are being made to abandon the use of coal by 2029 in accordance with the government’s policy.

Another goal of Helen is to improve energy efficiency by 5.4% from the 2015 level by 2025. To achieve this target, waste and recycled heat are being utilised more efficiently, production is being optimised and the use of energy generated by power stations for their own use is being enhanced.

Significant measures taken by Helen in 2020 included increasing the power of the Katri Vala heat pump plant, enhancing heat distribution with an optimisation program and utilising artificial intelligence. Heat recovery from the internal cooling water circulation was implemented at the Salmisaari power plant. A heat pump that utilises sea water and process heat is being built at the Vuosaari power plant. The solar panel installed on the roof of the Patola heating plant is used to reduce the plant’s own consumption. Helen also invested in the Ruskeasuo geothermal heating plant (well depth 2–3 km) as well as the Vuosaari wood chip heating plant, which will also be fitted with a flue gas condenser and absorption heat pump. Surveys are also being conducted in order to utilise waste heat and sea water heat in Kilpilahti. The process of filling Finland’s largest heat reservoir, located in Mustikkamaa, with water has started. 2020 was an interim target year for the energy efficiency agreement, and the target for 2025 must be raised.

In 2020, the efficiency of the Helen Group’s energy generation was as high as 95.29% (2019: 94.25%). In addition to the measures mentioned above, this is due to the increase in lower-emission and more energy-efficient production. For more information on Helen Ltd’s responsibility, see

Eyes on the future 

In the coming years, the City will also focus more on energy efficiency work carried out outside its own organisation. The start of 2021 saw the launch of the Energy Renaissance operating model, which improves the energy efficiency of privately owned apartment buildings and increases the consumption and generation of renewable energy in housing companies. For more information about the project, see here (

2021 will also see the launch of the Energiaviisas kaupunkikonserni (Energy-wise Helsinki Group) project, which is funded by the Ministry of the Environment. In this project, the City will offer support for the implementation of energy conservation measures by its subsidiary communities.  

The City of Helsinki has developed an energy efficiency partnership model in cooperation with other major cities. In the model, a partner company assumes responsibility for the planning and implementation of a building’s energy efficiency measures and is responsible for the attainment of the energy savings pursued. The piloting of the model will continue in four service buildings in 2021. 

Energy audits will be continued immediately once the COVID-19 restrictions imposed on public buildings are lifted. Additionally, procurements related to the maintenance and upkeep of properties will be developed to take energy efficiency and indoor conditions better into account.

The implementation of Heka’s Helena project, which started in autumn 2020, will continue until 2023 with funding from the European Investment Bank. The objective of the project is to reduce the energy consumption of Heka’s extensive renovation sites by approximately 40% by carrying out multi-objective optimisation on the sites.