Our Finnish pilot project is focusing on a renewable community energy system for the new Husulanmäki Communal housing area. Located in a picturesque forest area in the vicinity of lake Lapinjärvi, it offers an enjoyable and peaceful contrast to the urban city environment. The planned housing area includes about 12 houses that will be co-constructed. How this could look like, you can see in this fantastic video – it is in Finnish, but you can gather many impressions just by watching.
Staying with the topic of international cooperation and exchange: partners from our projects in Finland and Estonia also met last week in a webinar to report on their successes and challenges and how they might learn from each other. The Finnish partners from “Green Net Finland“ are in the process of establishing a new community in the municipality of Lapinjärvi and are currently investigating the best ways of how to provide the community with geothermal heating.
The Estonian partners from “Tartu Regional Energy Agency” (TREA) are working with the Tartu municipality to create Estonia’s first energy community through a community-owned solar PV park on the roof of an apartment building. The engagement of local municipalities provided a great base for discussion: While in Estonia, Tartu municipality is one of the main initiators of the project and the first one to do so, in Finland it is already more established for municipalities to be owners of local energy plants, and thus they’re operating mostly in a commercial interest.
Another shared issue in both projects is the profitability of investments into community energy. A recent study commissioned by Green Net Finland has shown that more energy consumption generally leads to more profitability as well as cost and CO2-emission savings, with individual heat pumps in fact being most profitable. Also TREA reports that consuming self-produced energy as opposed to selling it to the grid is more lucrative. The partners agreed that more involvement of the regional and national governments is necessary to support the further development of community energy and guarantee its profitability.
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.
Find the whole article here (in Finnish).
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.
GNF is welcoming new members to the RENCOP!
You can find the article here.
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.
Many housing companies in Finland wish to install solar PV systems on their rooftops, as a survey from our partner Aalto University shows. Current legislation requires a major revamp of the metering infrastructure though.
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