On February 26, 2020, the city of Helsinki announced the opening of applications for the Helsinki Energy Challenge (HEC), which aims to address challenges associated with urban heating produced with coal. According to its press release, Helsinki is one of the leading cities in the transition toward a sustainable future. Its aim is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035. Currently, however, Helsinki needs solutions to meet its heat demand. Given Finland’s coal ban starting in 2029, Helsinki is seeking heating solutions that go beyond coal and beyond burning biomass. Helsinki Mayor, Jan Vapaavuori, stated that “[s]olving the urban heating challenge is crucial to reach global climate goals. Cities have a key role to play in the transition to a low carbon economy, and Helsinki is now taking an initiative to lead the way.” The city is inviting innovators from around the world to use Helsinki as a test bed to develop fossil-free and sustainable solutions in the fight against global warming.

Proposed solutions will be evaluated based on:

  • Climate impact;
  • Impact on natural resources;
  • Implementation schedule and feasibility;
  • Reliability and security of supply; and
  • Capacity.

HEC is open globally to consortiums, start-ups, established companies, research institutions, universities, research groups, and individual experts. Applications will be accepted until May 31, 2020. Finalists will be invited to a co-creation phase in early July 2020, which will include a 3-day boot camp, where they will be provided support to develop their proposals. After the boot camp, finalists will present their proposals to an international jury of experts, who will name the winner or winners. To be presented in November 2020, the winning solution will be awarded one million euros.