The South Ostrobothnian RENCOP in Finland has been organising a virtual bus tour for the housing company representatives (see our latest newsletter for more information). At the moment, they are producing more videos. The first one is a visit to Oy Tampereen Pohjolankatu 18–20, the first housing company in Finland that has tested two-way district heating.
So far, the video is only available in Finnish, but English subtitles will be added soon.
A housing association in Lappeenranta, Finland, switched their heating system from district heating to geothermal heating half a year ago. The savings in the price of heating are 24 000 euros per year, which is a significant sum. “With this sum, we will finance the energy transition costs completely”, states Vesa Tikkanen, member of the board of the housing association. The payback time for the whole renovation will be around six years. In addition to geothermal heating, also exhaust air is recovered in the building. Next summer, an own solar panel system will start to generate power for all the systems to run.
The maintenance charge of apartments will be kept on the same level as before, however, with lower costs of heating, the funds can be retained and used for other maintenances, e.g. for facades, water and sewage systems. The chairman of the housing association, Tapio Saarelainen, says that the apartments which have been sold after the transition, have been sold for a significantly higher price than usual for Lappeenranta. “We aim to keep our apartment house in such a condition that people enjoy living here and we can call ourselves the most interesting apartment house in the region”.
This transition is not unique. Many housing associations discuss the possibility for a change from district heating and electricity bills with rising costs. Last year, 9000 new installations of geothermal heating systems were made in Finland. Every second new detached private house is heated with a geothermal heating system. In Finland, this means a total of 150 000 active geothermal heating systems nationwide.
For housing associations, there are different purchase options available. Geothermal heating can be purchased also as a service and after the service period and its payments are due, the geothermal heating system in use will change its ownership from the service provider to the housing association. With this, high investment costs at the beginning are not a barrier.
This has also wider effects for locally operated district heating systems, their profitability and business models. As the price of geothermal heating is approximately 40 euro per megawatt hour, district heating costs twice as much. District heating also needs continuous maintenance of its infrastructure. There is a tendency towards regional solutions covered by geothermal heating and also traditional energy companies are looking more into these possibilities in the future.
Our Helsinki-Uusimaa RENCOP expert group Green Net Finland had it’s 4th face-to-face meeting in Helsinki on 27 November 2019. In the meeting, a group of 12 experts discussed the content for the draft of the Policy Paper for the Political Meeting in Tallinn in March 2020. Current challenges in Finland from the Policy Perspective of Renewable Community Energy have been the legislation and forms of ownership, taxation, and license requirement vs. own community.
What has been done in from March until November on the subject of catalyzing renewable energy projects into housing companies and next actions?
How to promote the development of community energy projects for aging apartment blocks?
Presentation of participants and related news.
Energy Grant of Finnish Ministry of Environment from the beginning of 2020 and catalyzing renewable energy projects by housing companies. How could RENCOP and GNF as it’s coordinator help?
The represented parties at the meeting were GNF, City of Helsinki, Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council, University of Helsinki, Finnish Environmental Centre SYKE, Grapes Service | ESaas Oy, Nuuka Solutions Oy, and Utuapu Oy.
Altogether the Helsinki-Uusimaa RENCOP at this moment involves 38 persons – diversely representing local public authorities, academia sector and businesses, providing services and technologies for renewable energy and/or community energy projects.
The main outlines from the discussions were:
Substance focus of RENCOP will be widened covering also solar collectors and exhaust heat (air and waste water)
One of the identified issues for the policy paper was incoherent permissions practices (for example geothermal heat pumps) in municipalities in Finland
Permission practice should be made fluent and economically feasible for potential renewable community energy investments
Collaboration with Smart Energy Transition and CORE projects will be enhanced
The next face-to-face meeting of the Helsinki-Uusimaa RENCOP will be arranged on 3 March 2020 (13:00-15:00) in GNF’s office.
On the 20th of February in the municipality of Ilmajoki in South Ostrobothnia, three Co2mmunity partners came together to host a local solar energy information evening. Regional Council of South Ostrobothnia and Energy Agency of South Ostrobothnia Thermopolis Ltd worked together with other actors to discuss and inform on solar energy. The organizational team was pleasantly surprised as more than 60 citizens, entrepreneurs, and farmers came to hear facts and local experiences on solar energy. This was even more than expected and extra room and chairs needed to be arranged. During the evening, many questions were answered, and lively discussions took place.
The event partially originated from a discussion started by a local entrepreneur, who already runs a solar energy system both at his home and for his company, and he wanted to encourage other locals to buy solar energy systems for themselves. “For me the solar energy system has turned out to be a very reasonable investment, and I wanted to start a process for a common purchase and this way spread the common good”, says Juhana Lähdesmäki, a local entrepreneur.
As a result of the event, all the participants were asked about their interest in buying a solar energy system and whether or not they would like to receive more advice, with 16 participants voicing their interest in an investment. All interested participants will be contacted individually and a follow-up meeting is being organized.
Aalto University, the Co2mmunity partner implementing the RENCOP in Helsinki, has developed a comprehensive overview on renewable heating within district heating in Helsinki. A short article on the homepage of Aalto University also provides some key points. One main component proposed is to use wind energy to power large heat pumps. Already since 2006 the biggest heat pump in the world produces 100 MW of heat under the Katri Vala Park in Helsinki. And only 10 such heat pumps could power the whole district heating system of Helsinki.
Generally speaking, it is not very efficient to use electricity for heating, as for example electric space heaters do. Especially when using electricity generated from fossil fuel the combined efficiency can be well below 30% of the original fuel source. Heat pumps however leverage the energy by taking advantage of existing temperature differentials in the environment. Therefore heat pumps can provide a multiple of the electricity invested in the form of heat and boost overall efficiency. The discussion paper by Aalto University proposes to use the heat pumps in an integrated system with wind energy, CHP plants and heat storage to provide both heat and electricity when they are needed. Surely, this would be a great step towards an integrated energy system.
Second expert-driven RENCOP meeting held in Lapua, South Ostrobothnia 24th of September 2018 in the premises of Thermopolis Ltd. – Energy Agency of South Ostrobothnia (Lassilantie 12, 62100 Lapua). Ten experts participated to this meeting and represented participants from municipalities, research and development organisations, educational organisations and financers with a link to the citizens. New idea came up for an open citizen-driven RENCOP process, which is to give inspiration and organize events for ordinary villagers in Aisapari Leader area (includes following municipalities: Kauhava, Lappajärvi, Evijärvi, Vimpeli, Alajärvi and Lapua) to promote renewable community energy in the village houses of the area.
In response, Aalto University organised a breakfast for interested parties to discuss opportunities and barriers for solar PV self-consumption last week. The barriers to energy communities in housing companies made national news and during an interview the Finnish Minister for Climate and Energy promised a solution in the next year. The topic is especially important as Finland has no Feed-in-tariff scheme otherwise supporting solar PV rooftop installations.
Picture: Solar PV rooftop on a housing company appartment building in Helsinki
A solar energy event was held in Alavus on the 26th March 2018 at the premises of Alavus City Development (Fasadi, Taitotie 1, 63300 Alavus). It served to enhance solar energy in the city of Alavus and sorroundings and also to establish a temporary, smaller RENCOP. 39 participants attended and received information on how to connect solar systems to the grid, what systems are available and what possibilities exist for the coupling solar and geothermal systems. The event was free and open for everyone and advertised by the Alavus City Development in local papers and networks as well as by Thermopolis Ltd. on its Facebook page.
On the 13th Februar 2018 the first RENCOP workshop was held at the Regional Council of South Ostrobothnia, to launch the idea of a RENCOP working in South Ostrobothnia with potential stakeholders. Organisations active in making community energy happen as well as interested parties attended, inlcuding representatives from research and development organisations, municipalities, financiers, associations and companies, 14 people in total. New stakeholders are of course welcome. Energies of interest identified are micro-combined heat and power generation as well as biomass, biogas, solar energy and geothermal heat.