Photo: Yiping Feng & Ling Ouyang

One month left to enter Helsinki’s sustainable urban heating competition

The Helsinki Energy Challenge has been set up to find innovative new solutions to urban heating that go beyond burning fossil fuels and biomass to help the city meet its ambitious goal to be carbon-neutral by 2035. Helsinki is not alone: to fight climate change, sustainable heating solutions are needed in cities all over the world.

Entries to the Helsinki Energy Challenge, a global one-million-euro challenge competition to find a carbon-neutral solution for urban heating, close at 16:00 EET on 30 September 2020. To date the Challenge has attracted entries from over 13 countries, including Canada, Austria and Portugal, in addition to Finland, with entrants from over 50 countries expressing interest.

The climate crisis is the most crucial challenge of our time, and cities have a key role in driving the shift to a low-carbon economy. Helsinki is one of the leading cities in the transition towards a sustainable future, with the goal of becoming free of coal by 2029, and carbon-neutral by 2035.

Urban heating leaves a huge carbon footprint. Currently, more than half of Helsinki’s heat is produced with coal. In order to achieve carbon-neutrality, Helsinki needs radically new solutions to meet demand for heating homes in the famously variable Nordic climate. And Helsinki is not alone: to fight climate change, sustainable heating solutions are needed in cities all over the world - Heating not just beyond coal, but also beyond burning biomass.

Helsinki’s approach to regulation and open data, known as the “City as a testbed” policy, coupled with its lively ecosystem of innovative businesses and industry makes the city one of the best places to work on solutions to climate change. Helsinki is recognised as one of the most innovative cities globally and has recently been selected for urban trials by Wing, Alphabet’s drone delivery service, as well as a driverless microbus service developed by Muji and Sensible 4.

"Climate change is a global crisis that will not be solved through quick fixes. With the Helsinki Energy Challenge we are seeking new innovative solutions, even if it would mean significant changes to our existing system.

“COVID-19 hasn’t cancelled climate change. Our priority must be to stick to global climate goals, and if anything to be even more ambitious in our actions. Instead of agreements or statements we need systemic changes and actions with real impact. We invite innovators from all around the world to use Helsinki as a testbed for truly sustainable solutions for urban heating. Taking this next step might lead to a revolutionary breakthrough in our fight for a more sustainable city life", says Mayor of Helsinki Jan Vapaavuori.

What’s next for Helsinki Energy Challenge, following 30 September?

Finalists in the challenge will be announced in November 2020. The successful teams will receive a €10,000 to continue elaborating their solution in greater detail and they will be invited to Helsinki or attend a virtual co-creation boot camp, where they will receive more information and insights, coaching, mentoring and networking to further develop their ideas and solutions. Travel expenses to Helsinki for the boot camp will be covered for a maximum of three team members per team.

Final submissions will be made on 22 January and, following intensive evaluation by an international panel of experts, the winner of the €1 million prize will be announced at a ceremony in Helsinki in March 2021.

While that ceremony will mark the end of the competition, it is just the start of the challenge to show the world that the future of heating is not in the past. The winning entry will be considered for further co-development in partnership with the City of Helsinki, making the ultimate value of winning the Challenge potentially far greater than the prize money. The Challenge also provides the participants a unique opportunity to gain visibility and the potential to scale the ideas as solutions beyond Helsinki too.

More information about Helsinki Energy Challenge:

Helsinki Energy Challenge – Competition program  PDF

To apply visit: