The production and consumption of energy play significant roles in achieving the carbon neutrality target. The consumption of district heating accounts for 54% of the CO2 emissions of the entire city (urban area), while the electricity consumption of buildings 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 Action Plan, which aims for the City to become carbon-neutral by 2030. Helsinki has been involved in the energy efficiency agreements made between municipalities and the Finnish government. 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 Helsinki’s Climate Actions website. 

National requirements for construction exceeded, local renewable energy produced

For several years, it has been required for the City’s own new buildings to be made more energy-efficient than what is demanded by the national requirements. Since the beginning of 2021, the requirements for service buildings were made stricter by ten percentage points. I.e., new construction projects that start from 1 January 2021 onwards must have an E-value that is 30% lower than the national requirement, and the E-value of renovations must improve by 20 percentage points from the national requirement. The target for new housing construction in 2021 was that residential buildings should be at energy class A. In housing production renovation projects, the E-value must be 32% lower from the year of construction, and 25% lower from the current status. 

In the binding operational goals for the 2021 budget, a target was set for service building projects: a heat pump system would be selected as the main heating system whenever this is technically feasible and when the investment’s repayment period is less than 15 years. 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 financially viable.

In 2021, the primary form of heat production for new housing production sites was geothermal heating, and the feasibility and financial viability of other heat pump systems were also studied in relation to district heating. In renovation sites, the feasibility and financial viability of geothermal heating and other heat pump systems in relation to district heating were surveyed. For new construction and renovation sites, the requirement was that solar panels be implemented for all sites with potential for it. Solar power will cover the consumption of property electricity on a summer day, at the minimum.

Energy consumption causes considerable carbon dioxide emissions

The City accounted for 13% of the consumption of electricity, 18% of the consumption of heat and 4% 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 by 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 2020 and 2021 are presented in the table below. The CO2 emissions of Helsinki Group grew only by 1%, while energy consumption grew by 7% from 2020. The explanation for the moderate growth in CO2 emissions is that some of the electricity in 2021 was purchased as green electricity. The emission factor of Helen’s basic district heating product increased by 1.6%, whereas the emission factor of the basic electricity product decreased by 6% from the previous year.

Tables 4–9. Energy consumption and CO2 emissions of the Helsinki Group in 2020 and 2021.

PREMISES, owned by the city*GWh, 2020GWh, 2021GWh change %, 2020-2021CO2 kilotonnes, 2020CO2 kilotonnes, 2021CO2 change %, 2020-2021
District cooling2.674.7979%0.00.00%
District heating32939119%617421%
PREMISES, other (incl. subsidiary communities)GWh, 2020GWh, 2021GWh change %, 2020-2021CO2 kilotonnes, 2020CO2 kilotonnes, 2021CO2 change %, 2020-2021
Electricity** 20523816%50.638.5-24%
District cooling2.323.3444%0.00.00%
District heating***7828043%1461524%
OUTDOOR LIGHTING, TRAFFIC LIGHTSGWh, 2020GWh, 2021GWh change %, 2020-2021CO2 kilotonnes, 2020CO2 kilotonnes, 2021CO2 change %, 2020-2021
Outdoor lighting, electricity 42.838.4-10%10.68.9-16%
Traffic lights, electricity1.181.212%0.290.28-4%
PUBLIC AREASGWh, 2020GWh, 2021GWh change %, 2020-2021CO2 kilotonnes, 2020CO2 kilotonnes, 2021CO2 change %, 2020-2021
District heating3.363.8715%0.630.7417%
TRAFFICGWh, 2020GWh, 2021GWh change %, 2020-2021CO2 kilotonnes, 2020CO2 kilotonnes, 2021CO2 change %, 2020-2021
Metro traffic, electricity (green)49.949.90%0.00.00%
Tramline traffic, electricity (green)25.127.811%0.00.00%
Ferry traffic, fuel6.647.005%1.711.815%
VEHICLES AND MACHINERYGWh, 2020GWh, 2021GWh change %, 2020-2021CO2 kilotonnes, 2020CO2 kilotonnes, 2021CO2 change %, 2020-2021
Vehicles and machinery17.624.338%4.13.7-11%
GWh, 2020GWh, 2021GWh change %, 2020-2021CO2 kilotonnes, 2020CO2 kilotonnes, 2021CO2 change %, 2020-2021
TOTAL1,6601,7887% 3233251%

* Service buildings directly owned by the City where consumption is monitored by the hour (in the Nuuka system with about 600 properties).

** Including 30% of green electricity in 2021 (in 2020, this was not included in the calculations).

*** The district heating for Korkeasaari is zero-emission circulated heating (about 4 GWh).

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

  • 187 g/kWh for district heating
  • 247 g/kWh for electricity (data for 2019; the factor for 2020 is not available)
  • 0 g/kWh for cooling

The CO2 emissions for 2021 have been calculated by using the product-specific emission factors of Helen Ltd, which are the following:

  • 190 g/kWh for district heating
  • 232 g/kWh for electricity (data for 2020; the factor for 2021 is not available)
  • 0 g/kWh for cooling

In 2021, a majority of CO2 emissions (95%) came from the energy consumption of properties. Since 2019, the CO2 emissions calculations have used the emission factors specific for each energy product. The calculations for 2021 also include green electricity and district heating contracts as new elements, as far as the information has been available. Consumption in accordance with the green electricity contracts amounts to 72 GWh in the calculations. This involves subsidiary communities whose purchased electricity is fully green, such as Heka Oy, Korkeasaari, Kiinteistö oy Kaapelitalo and Jätkäsaaren Putkikeräys Oy. As for green district heating, the calculations for 2021 only take the zero-emission circulate heat bought by Korkeasaari into account.

The district heating consumption of both properties and public areas increased by 8% from 2020 after the relatively warm winter in 2020.

The electricity consumption of service buildings remained almost at the same level as last year. During the pandemic, the ventilation in service buildings was intensified, which increased the consumption of both electricity and district heating in 2021. 

The district cooling consumption of properties increased due to the increased number of cooled sites. The electricity consumption of outdoor lighting has continued to decrease thanks to systematic energy efficiency measures. 

The electricity consumption of metro traffic remained at the same level as last year, but the energy consumption of tramline traffic increased by 11% because of the cold storage of trams when the Koskela depot was out of order. Due to the cold storage, the trams need to be kept running more extensively to warm them up before starting operations. 

The fuel consumption of the Suomenlinna ferries increased by 5% from 2020 due to resuming a normal schedule after the reduced schedule of 2020.

District heating accounted for 67% of the City's total consumption (1,199 GWh), while electricity accounted for 31% (550 GWh), cooling accounted for 0.5% (8.13 GWh) and fuels accounted for 1.8% (31.4 GWh). 

Energy consumption per capita at last years’ level

The energy consumption per capita of the City’s own operations varies each year. In 2021, there was an increase of 7% from 2020. This is also influenced by the relatively warm winter of 2020, which decreased the consumption of district heating that year. The City’s population growth has slowed down in the past few years. The graph below shows the trends in the per capita energy consumption of the City’s own operations for the last 16 years. During the period in question, per capita energy consumption has decreased by 20%. The energy consumption data for 2019–2021 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.

Image 4. The development of the per capita energy consumption in the City of Helsinki's own operations and the population of the city in 2006–2021.

Monitoring of energy consumption

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 the housing company Helsingin kaupungin asunnot Oy (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. 

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.

Approximately 30% of the energy conservation targets 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 34 GWh, which is a little over 30% 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 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 financial viability of solar power systems were continued in 2021, and tenders were invited for the solar power systems of six service buildings, the installation of which started in 2021. On the roof of the City’s subsidiary community Postipuiston pysäköinti Oy, 210 solar panels with a total power rating of 92.4 kWp were built. 

In the new ice arena in Pirkkola, a new recovery system for condensate heat and a recycling system with heat pumps were installed. The condensate heat pump will produce about 2,525 MWh/a of thermal energy, which can be used to heat the ice arena.

The piloting of the energy efficiency partnership model that started in 2020 continued in four service buildings. In the ESCO model, a partner company provides a savings guarantee for the investment, the realisation of which will be monitored for the contract period. The ESCO projects of Liikuntamylly and Pohjois-Kontula civil defence shelter progressed to the monitoring phase. The actions within the projects included the replacement of ventilation systems and a geothermal system for Liikuntamylly. The realised actions can help reach energy savings of 2 GWh per year. 

The energy survey operations started off after the delays caused by the pandemic. Energy surveys were ordered for about 30 service buildings. Some of the fieldwork and the implementation of the actions took place in 2021, and others later. 

In 2021, the diagnostics features of the smart property data platform, the Nuuka system, which is used in service buildings, were developed to ensure the functionality of building engineering systems. In 2021, the building engineering automation of about 70 sites was integrated into the Nuuka system, which allows various control processes to be used to optimise 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. 

The computational reference value for energy efficiency, the E-value, for Heka’s extensive modernisation projects launched in 2021 (eight sites in total) improved by at least 32% in all but one site, compared to the year of construction, which is in line with the objective set. Solar power plants were completed for seven new housing sites and one modernised site had with the total combined power of 118 kWp. In addition to this, two exhaust air pump systems were installed, and the launch of three geothermal heating projects was decided on. As renewable energy procurements, tenders were called for a solar power plant for five existing sites.

The HELENA project of Heka, launched in October 2020, multi-target optimisation was prepared for 24 extensive modernisation sites, which aim for an energy efficiency improvement of 40%. In October 2021, the HELENA project also launched Heka’s innovation programme which sought innovative solutions for improving buildings’ energy efficiency. A total of 39 applications were received from Finland and other countries. Discussions for potential pilots continued with nine participants. More information about Heka Oy’s sustainability operations is on Heka’s website.

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. As a part of the project, energy specialists will offer practical aid to housing companies and strengthen residents’ agency through free counselling. You can read more about the project on the Helsinki’s Climate Actions website

In 2021, the Energiaviisas kaupunkikonserni (Energy-wise Helsinki Group) project was also launched, funded by the Ministry of the Environment. In this project, the City will offer support for the identification and implementation of energy conservation measures by its subsidiary communities. In the project, energy surveys were made and proposed measures were prepared to improve energy efficiency in the target properties. The project has provided assistance to operators such as Urheiluhallit Oy, Kalasataman jätteen Putkikeräys, Kaisaniemen Metrohalli and Korkeasaari Zoo. More information about the project results is available on the Helsinki’s Climate Actions website. 

Electricity supplier Helen’s goal is to improve energy efficiency by 5.4% from the 2015 level by 2025. Significant measures taken by Helen in 2021 for the energy efficiency of its production included the sixth heat pump at Katri Vala, increasing the power of the fifth heat pump, and raising the connection power for district and internal cooling. On the energy distribution side, the district heating network was renovated, and the network optimisation programme was adopted. The energy conservation objectives based on the energy efficiency agreement were exceeded. More information on Helen Ltd’s sustainability actions is in Helen’s sustainability report.

Eyes on the future

The investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy production will be prepared and implemented as continuous operations. The energy survey operations on service buildings will continue to raise the energy efficiency of the existing buildings to a better level. In the coming years, special attention will be paid to the timely implementation of the actions presented in the energy survey. The aim is to develop monitoring of the implementation and the verification of the energy conservation achieved in cooperation with the building owner, user and maintenance operator.

The smart capabilities of the City’s buildings will be improved in the coming years to meet the needs of the future. For this purpose, demand response in electricity and district heating and various AI applications for the optimisation of buildings’ conditions and energy consumption have been implemented and will be tested further.