Risto Veivo, Climate Director for the City of Turku, Finland says that the city’s greenhouse gas emissions have dropped to less than half of the 1990 level.
“In our energy production we will soon get completely rid of fossil energy. Emissions from transport, for example, have also declined significantly.”
The city has also updated its forest plan. It is currently setting up a regional compensation system. Both are aimed at reinforcing carbon sinks and diversity in nature and increasing the recreational use of forests.
After 2029 Turku hopes to be climate-positive.
“Then our emissions will have fallen below our ability to bind carbon from the atmosphere and we will be able to produce renewable energy above our own needs.”
Energy sector will soon be carbon-neutral
Timo Honkanen, the CEO of Turku Energia, says that 90% of electricity in Turku and 80% of its heat is produced in a carbon-neutral manner already now.
“A year from now we will be no longer be using any coal in the production of district heat”, he observes.
The change has been great and fast. Still at the beginning of the new millennium, 100% was the number used with reference to the share of fossil energy in the production of heat. Turku Energia trusts versatility in methods of production.
“We have not put all of our eggs in the same basket. We have adopted many kinds of green energy solutions and our investments have been spread over many years. At the same time, risks have also shrunk.”
Making use of waste materials and waste heat
The Naantali combined heat and power (CHP) plant and the Kakola heat pumps are owned by Turun Seudun Energiantuotanto Oy (TSE).
Giving up coal has been made easier by the CHP plant in Naantali, which produces heat and electricity from wood chips, a by-product of the forest industry.
“This year we will also open a line for receiving wood and cardboard which is no longer suitable for recycling. Next year a heat pump will be introduced to produce heat out of steam from a process that had not previously been utilised.”
In Turku, surplus heat is used at the Kakola wastewater treatment plant, where heat energy is recovered from wastewater. Heat pumps are used to turn it into district heating and district cooling. The Turku region already produces 30% of its district heating using methods that do not involve combustion.
Electricity is also procured from domestic and foreign hydropower plants, for example, and from Finnish wind power plants. In addition, solar panels have been placed on roofs in Turku at an increasing pace.
“Growth in wind power has been especially strong. Turku Energia is involved as an owner in many wind parks around the country.”
For the future Turku Energia’s plans also include a geothermal plant which extracts heat from the earth’s crust.
A good life with 1.5 degrees
However, Turku will not achieve its goals on emissions only by making changes in energy production, or through actions taken by the City Group. Businesses and residents will also be needed in the green transition.
Turku has launched its 1.5-degree life campaign, encouraging everyone to make climate-friendly choices.
Expert Lotte Suveri observes that a climate-friendly life is not a life of renunciation and misery; it also brings health and well-being into our lives, while creating new business activities in the best of cases.
“In Turku, day-to-day action on behalf of the climate can involve riding one of the new electric buses, for example. The number of electric buses in the city has multiplied this year. A third of the kilometres driven by public transport are powered by electricity”, Suveri says.
Food served at Turku schools has been modified to be more environmentally friendly by replacing beef with chicken and vegetable protein. People in the city are also encouraged to favour domestic fish, reduce food waste, and to recycle biowaste, for example.
Also taking part in the campaign are Turku’s libraries – circular economy veterans. In addition to traditional books, and the even more environmentally friendly e-materials, libraries also have all manner of other useful things, such as, 3D printers, for example, or sewing machines, and snow shovels. Consumption can be reduced by favouring borrowing.
If the goal of the Paris Agreement – stopping global warming at 1.5 degrees – is reached, it is likely that snow shovels will continue to be needed in Turku in the winter.
Toward a circular economy
A Circular Economy Roadmap has recently been completed in Turku – the first city-level plan in Finland for a transition to a circular economy.
“The circular economy is a way to achieve low-carbon consumption and to avoid wasting natural resources. At the same time, it creates completely new kinds of innovations, networks, work, and opportunities”, Risto Veivo says.
During the production of the roadmap, it emerged that the Turku area already has 300 different kinds of businesses operating in the circular economy field. They offer, for example, different kinds of rental or maintenance services, they utilise recycled materials, or seek ways to reduce food waste.
According to Veivo, the circular economy has great potential in industry, for example:
“An oil refinery in the Turku area is shutting down and it will be replaced by the Green Industry Park, with business activities focusing on a circular economy.” The chemistry departments of the universities of Turku are among the active developers in the field.”
The city, for its part, seeks to give visibility to the circular economy and the opportunities that it offers.
“The circular economy and sustainable development are also emphasised in the city’s own procurements”, Veivo observes.
Text: Matti Välimäki
Photos: Turku Energia