Can you design the future of urban heating?


The Helsinki Energy Challenge has been set up to find innovative solutions to urban heating  – and there is one month left to enter.

The global €1 million competition to find a carbon-neutral solution for urban heating closes on 30 September 2020. So far, the challenge has attracted entries from over 13 countries, including Canada, Austria and Portugal, in addition to Finland, with entrants from over 50 countries expressing interest.

The city itself aims to become free of coal by 2029, and carbon-neutral by 2035, and the Mayor, Jan Vapaavuori, said that coronavirus has not changed its ambitious plans. “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.

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.

The finalists will be announced on 6th November 2020, and each successful team will receive a €10,000 to continue working on their solution in greater detail. 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.

About the Helsinki Energy Challenge:

Challenge entries should be master plans for decarbonising the heating of Helsinki. The proposed plan can include one or more solutions, and different types of solutions  are welcomed – technological but also non-technological innovations. The 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 its ability to stop using coal by 2029 and speed up journey to becoming carbon-neutral by 2035.

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