Helsingin Energia has laid out plans to build a multi-fuel power plant in Vuosaari, Helsinki. If a new multi-fuel power plant is built in Vuosaari, Helsinki, the construction has to be carried out with the utmost care due to the adjacent nature reserve. If the power plant is not built, the decision will affect land use elsewhere in the capital – essentially by not allowing Helsinki to shut down the old coal-fired power plant in Hanasaari to make way for residential buildings.

The Helsinki City Council is set to decide which scenario is preferable next year.

Both alternatives remain plausible, with a recent environmental impact assessment finding that neither would jeopardise the emissions cut target Helsinki has adopted.

The new power plant is set to be able to run on both coal and biofuel or any mixture of the two fuels, with biofuels set to be derived primarily from wood chips, pellets, bio-coal and energy crops.

In addition, the assessment indicates that the impact of the possible construction on the nature reserve can be limited by selecting the site of the coal storage carefully. If sited northerly from the railway, it would have a detrimental impact, but westerly from Satamakaari it would not.

“The nearby nature reserves and Natura areas must be taken into account if the project is launched,” summarises Ilkka Toivokoski, a senior expert at Helsingin Energia (Helen).

With the market for biofuels only in its infancy, coal is expected to remain a part of energy production in Helsinki, in particular if the city decides to upkeep its old power plants.

“The goal is to guarantee a sufficient supply of district heat in all circumstances,” Markku Saukkonen, a project manager at Helen, explains.

Saukkonen is nonetheless confident that the availability of biofuels will improve notably by 2020, when the proposed multi-fuel power plant would be scheduled for completion.

Although the cost of building the new plant is estimated to be two-fold that of maintaining the old plant, weighing up the economic impacts of the two alternatives is not as straightforward. Annually, the operating costs of the Vuosaari power plant would be tens of millions of euros below those of the old plant. In addition, Helsinki would effectively lose money if it is unable to re-develop Hanasaari into a residential area according to plan.

Maija Aalto – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Helsingin Energia