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10 December 2021

Alliance-hosted webinar points the way towards climate-neutral cities

With the dates set for the Alliance’s 10th-anniversary Forum in Lahti on May 10th & 11th, 2022, the Alliance hosted an afternoon webinar on Wednesday, November 24th, 2021, to kickstart dialogue with our partners and network. With speakers sharing their experiences on working with cities to realize smart, sustainable transformations, the webinar served as a display of the richness of the Alliance’s network. These views on the transformation to sustainability show the way forward to achieving climate goals through the ambitious initiatives needed to achieve systemic transformations.

The webinar featured perspectives from Borealis, Fortum, Neste, Posintra, Unikie, Wolt, the Tampere University, Wapice, Skanska, and Dublin which we hope to build on in the coming months leading up to our Forum in Lahti. Read on for insights on how these organizations are working with the Alliance to realize visions of sustainable Green building, Urban mobility, Urban planning, and Renewable resources. A topic of particular attention was how companies and cities can work together more effectively in the future.’

The webinar panels offered a holistic overview from regional transformation of an oil-based industry cluster to become a forerunner in decarbonization; to the life-sized scale of a city block as a low-carbon living habitat; to the exchange of knowledge in utilizing waste heat from data centers for hybrid district heating networks between Dublin and Espoo and, finally, to the flow of city logistics and the overall impact of Finnish collaboration on an international stage.

A big thank you to all guests and contributors to this webinar, the discussions were highly interesting and the interconnections between the panels inspired new ways of thinking. This was the first conversation on the way towards our WALCC Forum in May 2022 in Lahti. Follow our website for updates as we hope to have you join us at the WALCC Forum and continue our discussions on low-carbon cities in Finland and around the World.

Driving Regional Transformation

The first theme of the afternoon focused on the work being done to make the Kilpilahti area near Porvoo, Finland, home to a strong petrochemical industry, a climate leader. Fredrik Pressler from Posintra moderated the panel and was joined by Heidi Bergman from Neste and Jari Koivumäki from Borealis. As they work toward a transition of the Kilpilahti area and its companies to climate role models, both Neste and Borealis agree that collaboration is key. Bergman believes the companies must now move to finding relevant partners and shaping well-defined common focus areas. Special attention must be paid herein to short-term and long-term roadmaps and partnerships that foster successful collaboration. Jari Koivumäki underlined the importance of functioning networks and Borealis’ plans of building a business ecosystem to push for the decarbonization of the Kilpilahti area and beyond its borders. The Alliance’s extended network serves as a platform for increasing both the efficacy of the actions taken in Kilpilahti as well as expanding their results beyond to create a climate forerunner with international recognition.

Nordic superblocks: green, smart cities

Markus Laine of the Tampere University introduced the notion of the superblock in city planning and its novel Nordic interpretation. Capturing a block-sized piece of urban fabric and rethinking the possibilities for collaboration, extending walkability and greenspaces, sharing infrastructure, services, and spaces. The result would increase livability in dense urban spaces while decreasing the carbon footprint.

Joining Laine were three actors who play a central role in seeing through this type of transformation. Reijo Väliharju of Hiedanranta Kehitys, an organization owned by the City of Tampere and appointed to the renewal of the Hiedanranta area; Toni Tuomola of construction and project development company Skanska; and Jari Kuusisto of Wapice, an IoT service provider with a 10-year contract with the City of Tampere

Superblocks were seen as a novel means of both increasing sustainability as well as affordability which rely on the efficient integration of digital services. Digitalization plays a role in shaping superblock from the planning of new urban areas and the design of buildings therein, in the form of digital twins, all the way to the daily lives of residents which are enriched by a virtual expansion of the block to a virtual village spanning the city.

The efficient utilization of digital and IoT services in superblocks calls for strong partnership between the city, developer, service providers, and residents to make use of the data produced. Most importantly this requires new cooperation models and the right partners who are collaborative by nature and future-oriented.

Pioneering the energy transition

Kari Lahti of Fortum e-Next led the energy transition panel which addressed the decarbonization of cities through the use of modern, hybrid district heating networks. We had the chance to hear Eddie Conroy, County architect of the City of Dublin, who shared how Fortum supported the County in integrating a waste heat solution to the district heating systems in Tallaght, South Dublin. With Fortum’s help, waste heat from a local Amazon data center will come to feed a newly built hybrid district heating system, the first of its kind in Ireland.

Ilkka Toijala of Fortum meanwhile, shared the progress made with the City of Espoo in its Espoo Clean Heat program that aims to end the use of coal in district heating and operate carbon neutrally by 2029. Modernizing the district heating network, which has about 90% of households connected, builds on a number of elements including the expansion of waste heat utilization beyond waste-water heat recovery, to other sources, such as data centers Espoo hopes to attract to the area.

The exchange of experiences between Dublin and Espoo has been mutually beneficial, combining each of their expertise, Dublin in hosting data centres and Espoo in operating hybrid district heat networks, into a clear roadmap towards carbon neutral heating including the rising demand of data centres needed for further digitalization. The Alliance continues its work with member Fortum to bring this expertise to a growing number of cities the world over.

Reframing logistics flows

Honorary Alliance Chairman Johan Wallin, Managing Partner at Synocus, engaged Olli Koski, Senior Manager of Public Policy at Wolt, a quick delivery platform serving restaurants and merchants now operating in 23 countries, and Vesa Kiviranta, Chief Business Officer for Unikie, a digital technology company offering engineering services and solutions for businesses enabled by IoE, 5G, and AI.

Both companies are focused on the people that work for them as their biggest assets, the capabilities and knowledge of their workforce is the key element to their success. Wallin asked about the contribution to the Finnish economy in terms of added value or spill-overs since Wolt is in the process of being acquired by US-based Doordash next year. Koski points out that the headquarters of Wolt will remain in Helsinki for the time being, he sees the main contribution of Wolt to the Finnish labor market in the attraction and integration of highly skilled workers from abroad, thereby internationalizing and diversifying the market and helping to lift Finland as a new technology hub on the global stage.

Unikie has been fostering collaboration with universities, public and private partners within Finland and abroad. The future challenges for the logistic flows in cities autonomization, electrification, and digitalization are all being addressed by Finnish companies, Vesa Kiviranta reminds us that there are all the building blocks needed to face the future: great education, skilled companies, test environments and the ability to collaborate in an open environment.