The Helsinki Energy Challenge has been set up to find innovative new solutions to urban heating that go beyond burning fossil fuels and biomass to help the city meet its ambitious goal to be carbon-neutral by 2035. Helsinki is not alone: to fight climate change, sustainable heating solutions are needed in cities all over the world.
The climate crisis is the most crucial challenge of our time, and cities have a key role in driving the shift to a low-carbon economy. Helsinki is one of the leading cities in the transition towards a sustainable future, with the goal of becoming free of coal by 2029, and carbon-neutral by 2035.
Urban heating leaves a huge carbon footprint. Currently, more than half of Helsinki’s heat is produced with coal. In order to achieve carbon-neutrality, Helsinki needs radically new solutions to meet demand for heating homes in the famously variable Nordic climate. And Helsinki is not alone: to fight climate change, sustainable heating solutions are needed in cities all over the world – Heating not just beyond coal, but also beyond burning biomass.
Helsinki’s approach to regulation and open data, known as the “City as a testbed” policy, coupled with its lively ecosystem of innovative businesses and industry makes the city one of the best places to work on solutions to climate change. Helsinki is recognised as one of the most innovative cities globally and has recently been selected for urban trials by Wing, Alphabet’s drone delivery service, as well as a driverless microbus service developed by Muji and Sensible 4.
“Climate change is a global crisis that will not be solved through quick fixes. With the Helsinki Energy Challenge we are seeking new innovative solutions, even if it would mean significant changes to our existing system.
“COVID-19 hasn’t cancelled climate change. Our priority must be to stick to global climate goals, and if anything to be even more ambitious in our actions. Instead of agreements or statements we need systemic changes and actions with real impact. We invite innovators from all around the world to use Helsinki as a testbed for truly sustainable solutions for urban heating. Taking this next step might lead to a revolutionary breakthrough in our fight for a more sustainable city life.”
– Mayor of Helsinki, Jan Vapaavuori
Tomorrow’s sustainable cities begin in Helsinki today. To apply visit: applychallenge.hel.fi
What’s next for Helsinki Energy Challenge, following 30 September?
Finalists in the challenge will be announced on 6 November 2020. The successful teams will receive a €10,000 to continue elaborating their solution in greater detail and they will be invited to Helsinki or attend a virtual co-creation boot camp, where they will receive more information and insights, coaching, mentoring and networking to further develop their ideas and solutions. Travel expenses to Helsinki for the boot camp will be covered for a maximum of three team members per team.
Final submissions will be made on 22 January and, following intensive evaluation by an international panel of experts, the winner of the €1 million prize will be announced at a ceremony in Helsinki in March 2021.
While that ceremony will mark the end of the competition, it is just the start of the challenge to show the world that the future of heating is not in the past. The winning entry will be considered for further co-development in partnership with the City of Helsinki, making the ultimate value of winning the Challenge potentially far greater than the prize money. The Challenge also provides the participants a unique opportunity to gain visibility and the potential to scale the ideas as solutions beyond Helsinki too.
For more information please contact:
Project Director Laura Uuttu-Deschryvere, City of Helsinki, Helsinki Energy Challenge, tel. +358 40 717 6415, laura.uuttu-deschryvere ( at ) hel.fi
Mayor Jan Vapaavuori’s interviews: Lotta Backlund, Special Adviser, City of Helsinki, tel. +358 040 531 3076 lotta.backlund ( at ) hel.fi
About the Helsinki Energy Challenge:
Can you design the future of urban heating?
The climate crisis is the most crucial challenge of our time, and cities have a key role in driving the shift to a low-carbon economy. The economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis will require large amounts of public and private sector investment and provides a huge opportunity to create an inflection point towards decarbonisation. The international cooperation and cooperation between cities is even more crucial than ever.
Helsinki is one of the leading cities in the transition towards a sustainable future, with the goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2035. But there is an issue to overcome. Currently, more than half of the city’s heat is produced with coal. In order to achieve carbon-neutrality, we need radically new solutions to meet Helsinki’s heat demand. And we are not alone. To fight climate change, sustainable heating solutions are needed in cities all over the world. Heating not just beyond coal, but also beyond burning biomass.
That is why we have launched the Helsinki Energy Challenge. A global one-million-euro challenge competition to answer the question: How can we decarbonise the heating of Helsinki, using as little biomass as possible?
Joining the Helsinki Energy Challenge is a unique opportunity to play a part in solving a pressing global issue and making a real difference to sustainability worldwide. But participants also have the chance to win one million euros – the prize money allocated by the City of Helsinki for the Challenge winner. And since we are committed to sharing learnings and solutions with other cities, the Challenge competition represents a unique opportunity to gain visibility and business opportunities in other parts of the world, with further development or scale-up as possible outcomes.We believe the best ideas can come from anywhere, and that great innovation often comes from multidisciplinary discussions and diverse teams. Therefore, the Challenge is open globally to everyone – to start-ups and other companies, research institutions, universities, individual experts, consortiums or any other actor who can provide sustainable solutions to urban heating. We only ask one thing: that you join the Challenge as a team.
Challenge entries should be master plans for decarbonising the heating of Helsinki. The proposed plan can include one or more solutions, and we welcome different types of solutions – technological but also non-technological innovations. City of Helsinki is not only open to leveraging its current district heating system, but also to solutions requiring system-level change. The main requirement is that the proposed solutions should significantly contribute to our ability to stop using coal by 2029 and speed up the City of Helsinki’s journey to becoming carbon-neutral by 2035.We invite innovators from all around the world to use Helsinki as a testbed for truly sustainable solutions for urban heating. Taking this next step might lead to a revolutionary breakthrough in our fight for a more sustainable city life.
Helsinki Energy Challenge – Competition program:
Helsinki Energy Challenge photos and videos:
City of Helsinki, City Executive Office
+ 358 40 849 6065