Energy Helsinki’s most visible coal pile disappears ahead of schedule: Hanasaari power plant closes by two years

Helsinki the city’s energy company Helen will close the Hanasaari power plant prematurely. The Hanasaari power plant burns about 60 percent of the coal used by Helen.

According to the original council decision, the plant would have been closed by the end of 2024, but Helen’s government decided on Tuesday that the doors will lock on April 1, 2023, a year and nine months ahead of schedule.

The closure was announced by the mayor at a joint press conference by the city and Helen Jan Vapaavuori (kok).

Helen anticipated this already a year and a half ago, when it made the construction decision for the Vuosaari biopower plant.

Read more: Coal burning may end in Hanasaari already in 2023

The closure of Hanasaari will reduce Helen’s climate emissions by 45%. Last year, the energy company’s fossil energy production CO2 emissions were 2.7 million tonnes.

The new Vuosaari biopower plant covers about a quarter of Hanasaari’s current coal use. The rest will be replaced by heat pumps and energy storage.

Managing director Juha-Pekka Weckström says that the early closure of Hanasaari is possible because the implementation of replacement production has been accelerated.

The Vuosaari biopower plant is nearing completion at the end of 2022. The blueberry heat storage was put into operation in the spring and filled with water.

“In addition, over the past six months, taxation has become unfavorable for coal and, on the other hand, the price of emissions trading rights has started to rise. Of course, making heat with coal is still profitable, but using fossils has become even more challenging, ”says Weckström.

From the turn of the year, the increase in excise duty on fossil fuels raised the price of using coal, although at that time there was mostly news of an increase in the price of transport fuels.

The city owns a valuable site for the Hanasaari power plant, so the disappearance of the coal pile means new construction opportunities in the eastern core city.

Hanasaari employees were informed about the end of production and the closure of the plant immediately after the Board meeting. Weckström anticipates that during the two-year transition period, they may be offered jobs elsewhere in the company. Helen has a total of a thousand employees.

Weckström has been leading Helen for about a year and a half, and during her time the pace of carbon – free heat production has only accelerated.

The seventh heat pump at Katri Vala’s pumping plant is nearing completion in 2023. The transfer of waste heat from Kilpilahti operators to the Helsinki metropolitan area is still on the planning table.

Weckström emphasizes that there is no single mega-project to replace coal. Progress is being made on many fronts.

The largest projects in terms of size are the transfer of waste heat from Neste and Borealis from Porvoo and seawater pumps, the design of the latter of which has already progressed to the environmental impact assessment.

“The Gulf of Finland is shallow off Helsinki, and the water cools down quickly in autumn. Therefore, the connecting pipe for seawater pumps will inevitably become long. But the overwhelming advantage of this expensive project in itself is that the heat source is inexhaustible and free, ”Weckström describes.

Helen is also interested in smaller-scale investments to guarantee heat production in the demarcated area. For example, Ruskeasuo is currently drilling the city’s first medium-deep geothermal well. These two-kilometer-deep heat wells have already been built in Espoo and Vantaa.

Read more: Energy company Helen starts drilling a two-kilometer-deep heat well at Helsinki’s Ruskeasuo power plant site

Helen is also researching small nuclear power plants and various hydrogen projects.

A joint project with Skanska is underway in Kruunuvuorenranta, in which the pumping of warm seawater from July into an underground cave would be utilized in the heat production of new homes.

Energy company the program totals around € 1 billion for investments to replace coal in energy production.

“Just over a third of them are already underway,” Weckström says.

He firmly believes that in addition to Hanasaari, the Salmisaari coal-fired power plant can also be closed before the statutory coal burning ban comes into force on May 2029.

The palette of heat pumps and storage facilities, the Kilpilahti project and environmental heat is complemented by the heat trade. Helen is also buying heat from Vantaa Energia’s waste-to-energy plant.

Ambient heat and waste heat recovery were also key elements for the mayor as well Jan Vapaavuori (kok) in the new solutions of the international energy competition.

Its € 1 million grand prize was shared among four international working groups.

Read more: Forever summer, artificial islands are proposed in front of Helsinki – Winners of the EUR 1 million competition would revolutionize the entire city’s heating system

Weckström says that the output of the competition has also been carefully studied in the energy company, even though the competition was a distinctive project between the city and Vapaavuori. The key word for further development is accurate costing.

“Carbon neutrality is easy to implement in itself until you ask what it costs to implement.”

Helen’s services cover 1.8 million people, which is considerably more than the population of Helsinki. Customers always have a negative attitude towards fee increases.

The transformation of the energy sector is very inspiring for those who follow the sector. New technical solutions are constantly being developed, tested and implemented.

“It’s great to be involved in the change, and to change the world,” says Weckström.

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