The City of Helsinki has launched a contest – with a €1 million prize – for ideas to decarbonise its district heating system
The Helsinki Energy Challenge invites cross-disciplinary teams of ‘innovators, solution developers and technology providers’ to devise ways of replacing coal and biomass as the main source of energy for the Finnish capital’s extensive heating network.
The two-stage competition is part of the Helsinki’s bid to become carbon neutral by 2035 and aims to generate solutions that could be harnessed by other cities with similar systems around the world. The overall winner will receive a €1 million top prize.
Helsinki mayor Jan Vapaavuori said: ‘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.
‘Climate change is a global crisis that will not be solved by quick fixes. With over half of the city’s heat coming from coal, we hope that our shift to sustainable energy can help inspire other cities and act as a real life case that a transition is possible. Taking this next step might lead to a revolutionary breakthrough in our pursuit for a more sustainable city life.’
Helsinki is Finland’s most populous city with more than 640,000 residents. The city and surrounding region are a major tech hub featuring many globally leading businesses including consumer electronics giant Nokia.
In 2018, the city council held a design contest for a series of ‘stylish and sympathetic’ 5G base stations across the Finnish capital, which was won by a local team known as Stadika. In 2016, the city ditched competition-winning plans by Paris-based Moreau Kusunoki Architects for a £110 million Guggenheim Museum in the nearby South Harbour.
Last year, the city opened an international competition to remasterplan the central market square in Töölöntori and a contest to remasterplan the suburban Itäkeskus and Puotila districts. Anttinen Oiva Arkkitehdit won a contest in 2017 for a mixed-use development around a new tram depot on Helsinki’s eastern fringe.
Finland has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2035. Currently around 93 per cent of buildings in Helsinki are connected to a district heating system which relies on a series of CHP plants, such as the Salmisaari A Power Station (pictured), to provide warmth.
The competition seeks ways to decarbonise Helsinki’s district heating system and remove its reliance on coal and biomass by 2029. Applications must be in English and proposals may draw on both ‘technological and business model innovations’ and be either small scale or pitched at a systemic level.
Between three and 15 shortlisted teams will be invited to three-day ‘boot camp’ workshop in early July, during which they will provided with professional support to further develop their proposals. Following presentations to the judging panel, an overall winner will be announced in November.
The deadline for applications is 4pm local time on 31 May.
How to apply
City of Helsinki