Metropolia represented among the finalists of Helsinki Energy Challenge
Innovation Director Antti Tohka represented Metropolia in an international team that advanced from among hundreds of candidates to the finals of Helsinki Energy Challenge. Only ten teams were chosen to the finals. The result of the competition was announced on March 16, 2021. The teams participating in the competition had a total of more than 1,500 experts and innovators from around the world considering a solution to Helsinki's heating challenge. The main prize of the competition is one million euros, which, as an outcome, was divided for five teams. Tohka's team was not among the awarded but reaching the top10 is an extraordinary achievement itself.
Sustainable solutions for heating Helsinki
In February 2020, the City of Helsinki opened the international Helsinki Energy Challenge. The competition sought solutions that would allow Helsinki to be heated sustainably in the coming decades without coal and with as little biomass as possible.
The challenge inspired 252 teams from 35 different countries around the world. Of these, ten teams were selected for the final stage in November 2020.
The finalist teams submitted their final competition proposal by January 22, 2021 for review by the international jury. The evaluation criteria were the climate impact of the proposal, the impact on natural resources, the cost impact, the implementation schedule, the feasibility, the assurance of supply and the capacity. The City of Helsinki is committed to sharing the lessons and results of the competition openly so that other cities can also utilize them in their own climate work.
Heating solutions, business innovations and continuous learning are all needed for change
The competition team represented by Antti Tohka, Director of Metropolia's Clean and Sustainable Solutions Innovation Hub, consisted of a multidisciplinary group of experts, including technology experts, economists, mathematical modelers and financial experts.
The basic idea of the team called CarbonHelSinki, is to design a district heating system for the city that is circular and that takes advantage of residual heat that is otherwise lost. In the proposal, Helsinki is moving gradually towards carbon neutrality so that coal combustion will be stopped in 2029 and the carbon neutrality target will be achieved in 2035. Heating solutions are based on heat pumps, which utilize e.g. waste heat streams, geothermal and marine heat, solar heat and seasonal heat storage.
In order to ensure expertise and business models to accelerate change, the proposal also presented ideas for training and business hubs in Helsinki, needed for change.
“In our competition proposal, in addition to technical solutions, we also strongly emphasized the role of business and finance, the importance of zoning and the importance of continuous learning in green transition and regional development,” says Tohka.
The main coordinator of the CarbonHelSinki consortium was the Swedish Environmental Institute (IVL). In addition to Metropolia, Eurac Research from Italy, Eléctricité de France from France, European Institute for Energy Research from Germany, Eksta Bostäder from Sweden, Resourceful Futures from the United Kingdom, LKAB Wassara from Sweden and Ochsner Process Energy Systems from Austria were involved.
“Our solution builds on the district heating system that already exists in Helsinki, but to that we link more heat sources, solar, air, water and other residual heat flows that exist in the city and are not used today. The key is to build a system that is very flexible and where you can utilize the capacity of different heat sources when they are most cost-effective to use”, says Kristina Lygnerud from IVL.
“Our international team was absolutely awesome. Despite the global corona situation, we got a great deal of joint development work done through digital channels. Cooperation and innovation work continue. I hope that the team's experts will soon have the opportunity to come to Finland to share their expertise with Metropolia's students and staff”, concludes Tohka.
The innovation center brings together Metropolia's sustainable development expertise
Prior to Metropolia, Tohka worked for almost seven years in various modeling and expert tasks related to systems analysis in Finland and abroad. The methods of operation of mathematical models and the integration of quantitative and qualitative information were thus already familiar to Tohka.
“The competition team needed my skills as an expert in local conditions. My current position as Innovation Director helped me to present the systemic change that played a big role in our competition proposal. I hope that the challenge competition and its results will stimulate carbon-free growth in the Helsinki metropolitan area and interest in introducing new energy solutions”, Tohka says.
In a multidisciplinary competition team, it was important to outline how each person’s expertise was incorporated into the competition proposal. The same operating principle is utilized in Metropolia's innovation hubs, where Metropolia's expertise is combined with a broader ecosystem to address global challenges such as climate change.
The aim of the Clean and Sustainable Solutions Innovation Hub, led by Tohka, is to bring together Metropolia's sustainable development expertise and, together with a network of partners, to research and develop solutions to curb the sustainability crisis.
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