Carbon neutral municipality - not a utopian idea

An Expert's View about Energy Efficiency in Finland

Posted on: 14 Oct 2010

Finnish project proves that with the help of modern technology such a target is attainable at current energy prices.

9 October 2010 Carbon neutral municipality - not a utopian idea Two years ago, five Finnish municipalities decided to curb their greenhouse gas emissions by more than required under EU objectives, and ahead of schedule. Now, the project proves that with the help of modern technology such a target is attainable at current energy prices. Approximately one third of the target would be reachable by enhancing energy efficiency. The remaining part would be feasible by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy. The municipalities aim to achieve carbon neutrality, i.e. to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 80 percent from the 2007 level by 2030. One of them has adopted an even more ambitious objective: a 30 percent reduction on the 2007 emissions level by 2012. In 2008, the municipalities participating in the Carbon Neutral Municipalities (Canemu) project - Kuhmoinen, Mynämäki, Padasjoki, Parikkala and Uusikaupunki - took immediate and concrete steps to cut emissions. Since then, they have taken more than 70 measures to enhance energy efficiency, energy saving, the use of renewable energy sources, and pro-environmental investments. A further more than 60 measures are being planned. The municipalities have, for instance, adopted the practice of including municipal emission reduction measures as part of the municipal budget. Mynämäki has integrated the promotion of renewable energy sources into its urban planning process. A special feature of the project is that municipal authorities, local residents and business representatives work together to meet emission-reduction targets. Key success factors, multiple benefits The project has been able to find success factors underlying emission reduction measures. These include municipal management becoming committed to such measures, while understanding that emission reduction is an opportunity for the municipal economy and business life. Measures for curbing emissions must extend to all municipal sectors and decision-making. Enterprises must be provided with tools for fostering energy efficiency and reducing products? carbon footprints. Both enterprises and citizens need concrete information on suitable energy solutions. Local media play a major role in communicating on successful measures undertaken by stakeholders ? the municipality, local residents, or an enterprise. ?Municipalities can give momentum to emission-curbing measures, based on relatively small resources, if a motivated person is in charge and has management support. However, it pays for small municipalities to pool their resources,? says Professor Jyri Seppälä, who has overall responsibility for the Canemu project. ?A major share of an additional person?s wage can be found in energy savings in municipal operations. These are savings that a skilled employee can achieve through his or her actions,? says Mr Seppälä. Municipalities are both setting an example and facilitating action taken by citizens and business life. Enhancing the energy efficiency of buildings is viewed as an investment target, while new potential and a boost to employment are seen in renewable energy sources and environment-friendly technology. Alongside a broad network of experts from other research institutes and enterprises, the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) lends support and expert assistance in this work. Measures previously carried out separately and single-handedly are now viewed as being part of a larger entity, while contributing to a common goal. ?Uusikaupunki?s encouraging atmosphere is attracting new enterprises to the city, to participate in the cooperation underway,? says Professor Seppälä. ?In turn, this creates new jobs. The pro-environmental approach is seen as a competitive asset that motivates enterprises to invest in environment-friendly action.? Examples of concrete results One of the project?s most significant private sector measures is underway in Uusikaupunki, in the shape of the Yara fertiliser plant?s investment in catalyst technology. This will cut the factory?s greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 90 percent. Another remarkable initiative is the closed circulation energy solution devised by Sybimar Oy. This facilitates the utilization of nutrients, water and carbon dioxide in energy and food production. Town center district heating solutions based on renewable energies, have proven the fastest way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The participating municipalities have huge potential to increase the utilization of renewable energy sources through local resources, while saving energy by improving the energy efficiency of premises, for example. In Parikkala alone, a 2.5 percent reduction in overall emissions from municipal buildings was achieved. This was done by replacing oil heating for a school with a wood-pellet-fuelled heating system. The payback period on investments was less than three years. An example of the active approach adopted by local residents is the establishment of a working group of holiday residents in Kuhmoinen and Padasjoki. This group began to analyze emissions from holiday homes and to think up ways of reducing them. A result of the working group?s efforts is the carbon calculator HiMo2, for calculating greenhouse gas emissions from holiday homes. The project has also devised a Climate Diet calculator for assessing a person?s climate weight. This tool, intended for everyone living in Finland, will also be launched in the five municipalities. Deepening international cooperation The second phase of the Canemu project will continue until the end of 2012, based on funding by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes), enterprises and the Finnish Environment Institute. The aim is to continue concrete measures to reduce emissions, to enhance cooperation with organisations and advisory networks, to disseminate the tools, information and practices created in the project to other municipalities, and to deepen cooperation with corresponding international pilot projects. Sources: Canemu project Related: Finns roll up their sleeves to mitigate climate change
Posted: 14 October 2010

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