Co2mmunity project’s  Helsinki-Uusimaa RENCOP expert group had it’s 5th  face-to-face meeting in Helsinki on 3 March 2020.

Participants of the meeting are experts representing: Green Net Finland, the City of Helsinki, Uusimaa Regional Council, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE and University of Helsinki.

We have 5 points of discussions this time:

  1. Overview of activities in Co2mmunity project and general discussion on changes in the field of renewable energy and community energy

  2. Presentation of the Citizens’ Energy Arena 2020 preliminary results (Jani Lukkarinen, SYKE)

  3. Discussions of proposals for Co2mmunity Policy Paper and work in Tallinn forum on 12.3.2020

  4. Discussions on community energy from Helsinki-Uusimaa perspectives

  5. Future plans of Helsinki-Uusimaa RENCOP

The summary of the discussions and the main outputs are presented below.

Overview of the Co2mmunity and GNF’s activities within the project (Evilina Lutfi, GNF)

and general discussion on changes in the field of renewable energy and community energy:

The field of renewable energy is changing rapidly in Finland. Deep well and medium deep well geothermal energy objects under construction. Commercial operators offering hybrid systems as a service have also entered the market for community housing (including block of flats buildings).

The main observations from Co2mmunity project, that the challenge in Poland and the Baltic countries is the domination of the district heating network, the old infrastructure, basically very low energy prices, and the state often owns the infrastructure. Private and community funding is tight.

Green Net Finland’s policy in the Co2mmunity project has been to analytically promote community-based renewable energy and to think about the combined benefit of climate (emission reductions) and the economy from the point of view of the urban community energy investment. As with other development projects, we remain neutral and away from deliberate politics and bias. We focus on the project title. In the Co2mmunity project – on property-specific hybrid systems in aging apartment blocks. We communicate and disseminate good examples of community energy projects, following development of renewable community energy sphere, share knowledge and understandings openly.

Presentation of the Citizens’ Energy Arena 2020 preliminary results (Jani Lukkarinen, SYKE)

Workshops have been organized in cooperation within Smart Energy Transition and CORE projects.

Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy and Ministry of the Environment convened the meetings. The limitation of community energy is housing companies. No other form of community energy is included. The work is based on the National Energy Transition Arena project 2017:

The work includes a three-part workshop series, the last of which is March 19, 2020. Work steps:

– Setting a breakthrough target: Increasing distributed energy production by housing companies from 0.5 TWh  at this moment to 4 TWh by 2035

– Workshop 1: 55 drivers and 59 barriers to the promotion of community energy in Finland were identified

– Workshop 2: 4 change paths were built. They include: national policy guidance, regional operating environment, business environment development pressures and housing company decision making.

The workshops have used gamification techniques. Included in the gamification are: the role of knowledge, service structure change, regulatory solutions, enabling policy changes, business models, thematic clusters.

Helsinki-Uusimaa RENCOP materials, outputs and results were borrowed at work. They played a very important role.

Intermediate observations are now in place, which are provisional so far and will be refined with the final workshop, when the four paths are cross-examined.

Intermediate policy observations:

– Citizens’ and community energies are currently not taken into account in policy strategies: a separate strategy or a clear role in the energy and climate strategy is needed

– Energy communities can be supported through taxation, either through energy tax or through energy efficiency in property tax

– Building technology requirements could require solutions enabling the integration of decentralized energy production. The decree on the energy performance of buildings could also require a minimum level of decentralized renewable energy production in renovation and construction

– Harmonization and streamlining of renewable energy licensing practices are important tools for promoting the sector

– The development of energy communities can be supported through funding (eg funds, state guarantees) and through leasing and ESCOs in energy subsidies

– Advice and information production is currently fragmented. Co-ordination should be initiated between different administrative sectors (eg Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy, Ministry of the Environment and Energy Authority)

– Municipalities play an important role in coordination of renovation and management of regional networks (in particular, heating networks)

Outcomes from discussions of proposals for Co2mmunity Policy Paper:

– Taxation considerations, eg property tax relief

– Harmonization of municipal licensing processes

– Providing complete solutions (hybrid renewable energy systems). Can the solution be expanded from one housing company to several blocks, for example, solutions that exceed plot boundaries.

– Financing model: how public guarantees and funds can help to recapitalize investments. What do other countries think about this? The Green Deal pattern is now on the rise in the EU. Why could Baltic Sea cooperation not influence it and try to promote its use in renewable community energy?

– A long-term support policy is needed. Too short-term forms of support bring uncertainty. The targets must also be sufficiently ambitious. Encourage innovation. The subsidy policy must also enable renewable energy investments in housing companies that are in dire need of renewable energy alternatives but are not on the “parade place” and are therefore not in the best financial position.

Discussions on Helsinki-Uusimaa perspectives:

– Incentives are easy to sell in housing companies. For example, property tax reduction.

– In Helsinki, property tax is now at a minimum level, which is difficult to decrease. However, the city of Tampere is now using that tool.

– Helsinki to hire Energy Advisers for building supervision at the beginning of 2021. Particularly in renovation coordination and thermal control of regional networks.

– How about the municipalities? Large municipalities have good advisory capacity, but small municipalities do not have time and resources may not be available. However, may the eyes be on regional or national general actors? What could they be? Motiva, Posintra, GNF?

– The Citizens’ Energy Arena 2020 workshop is now a growth-centric perspective, but it must be recognized. Different environments should have different operating models. If the market begins to develop from growth centers, then perhaps it will spread to a larger scale.

– The Helsinki Energy Renaissance project is planning to assemble a library of approximately one hundred model apartment blocks for renewable community energy investments.

– In Helsinki, at Katajaharju, 10 housing companies’ shared geothermal heating system at the tender stage. The plot side in Helsinki is interested in these, successful examples add to the interest.

– An energy study (Ramboll) has been carried out for the Malmi new construction site in Helsinki. The result is that the current district heating system is not the most profitable option. A hybrid option with heat-per-block waste water recovery, utilizing park areas as a geothermal field and photovoltaic panels is a viable option. Helen now doing follow up. Coming civic workshop, developer workshop and manual.

– Housing clubs have been successful in Helsinki and Uusimaa. For example, Myllypuro has done just fine. They decided to hire an outside consultant, and the enthusiasm was boosted by a good example house company that not only invested in energy, but also carried out refurbishment work, after which all the neighboring house companies joined.

– The Merihaka project in Helsinki has failed so far, sea heat was planned. Possibly later on.

– 8.4.2020 closing event for EKAT, MySmart Life projects. Location: Elimäenkatu 5, Helsinki

Future plans of Helsinki-Uusimaa RENCOP

– Participation of Helsinki-Uusimaa RENCOP coordinator into Community Energy Forum for Policy Progress on 12.3

– Excursion to Tampere to Pohjolankatu 18-20 housing company on 31.3. GNF organise in cooperation with the Regional Council of Southern Ostrobothnia and Thermopolis. Call Out on 4.3. The registration DL is 15.3. GNF will finance transportation Helsinki-Tampere-Helsinki and lunch from the Co2mmunity project budget.

– It was decided to hold one more/the last within Co2mmunity project RENCOP meeting. Preliminarily, early June 2020. Subject: overview of outputs and results.

– All participants expressed opinion, that the Helsinki-Uusimaa RENCOP group has been very useful.  It’s great that there is this group that has shared knowledge and promoted community energy in the area. There are no other similar groups, so it would be great if the group could somehow continue to meet also after the Co2mmunity project.