Vantaa Energy’s climate commitment: Fossil-free energy production by 2026
Interview with CEO Jukka Toivonen
The EU has set a common target of climate neutrality by 2050 and has also recently raised its emissions reduction target to 55 percent by 2030. Finland aims for climate neutrality by 2035.
What is Vantaa Energy doing to support achieving these goals?
Globally, energy companies have a significant role to play in slowing down climate change. That is why we think we need to be proactive and do things open-mindedly in a new way. Last autumn, we set the goal of ending the use of fossil fuels as early as 2026. The energy use of coal will end even earlier, by 2022.
How will fossil-free energy production be achieved in Vantaa? What are the challenges of moving from fossil fuels to renewables?
Abandoning fossil fuels is achieved in an energy-efficient way following the principles of circular economy. We have many untapped heat sources, especially in the summer, while the heat demand is greatest during the cold months of winter. We are therefore planning the construction of world’s largest underground seasonal heat storage. It would allow, for example, large-scale storage of waste heat and surplus wind power, as well as more efficient use of summertime solar and geothermal energy. In addition to waste heat, other energy production is also needed. The expansion of our waste-to-energy plant increases the recovery of non-recyclable waste. In addition, renewable energy sources are key, especially in the long run. In 2019, we changed our old boiler from gas to biofuel and increased the production of geothermal energy and solar heat.
What is the role of district heating in fighting climate change?
Decarbonised district heating will help reduce the CO2 footprint of buildings. Furthermore, the district heating network is a significant platform for additional emission reductions. For example, cooling generates waste heat that can be recovered and, with a seasonal storage, utilized in winter. The need for cooling is also increasing and thus more waste heat will be available. Digital solutions also act as enablers here. They make it possible to shift consumption from peak demand hours such as Monday mornings, which means that the energy needed can be produced more cleanly. With smart systems, each customer can be a more integral part of the heating network and system. Digitalisation is also beneficial for heat production – for example, the efficiency of our renewed bioboiler was increased by more than 10 percent with digital solutions, from 120 megawatts to 140 megawatts.
What are Vantaa Energy’s greetings to other energy companies that are pondering their climate targets?
Energy companies need to act quickly, because climate change is not waiting. It’s worth setting your own challenging goals to phase out fossil fuels. They inspire the employees and produce new innovations. Many of our new ideas, such as the seasonal storage facility or the digitization of a bioboiler, are also replicable by others. Concrete measures will be noted – energy companies have become an attractive workplace, because their work is seen as more meaningful than before.
What kind support is needed from the society for energy companies in the transition to fossil-free production?
The leap towards an emission-free energy system requires innovation and the courage to put new things into practice. Investment is needed in technologies like our seasonal storage, which may not yet exist. Piloting them involves the technological risk of the first operator, and the initial investment and operating costs may be high. With the help of initial support from the society, cost-effective and reliable mainstream technologies are created, which can also be a competitive advantage for Finland and Europe.
Jukka Toivonen, CEO