The City of Helsinki has decided to allow the construction of private properties’ geothermal wells (energy wells) in public areas under certain conditions. This decision is apparently the first of its kind in Finland. The decision is based on the growing demand for affordable geothermal energy and its climate-friendliness, which meets the city’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2030.

As part of the carbon neutrality goal, the City of Helsinki is committed to increasing the amount of geothermal energy used in the city. The intention is to cover 15 per cent of Helsinki’s heating needs by geothermal energy from 2030 onwards. At the end of 2021, geothermal energy still accounted for only about 1.8% of Helsinki’s total heating energy, but at the same time, 25% more geothermal wells were installed than in the previous year. In particular, the demand has increased among housing companies.

At its meeting on 1 February 2022, the Urban Environment Committee decided that the city will allow, for example, the construction of geothermal wells of housing companies in city-owned public areas, if there is not enough space on the housing company’s own plot. Primarily, the wells should still be built on the housing company’s own plot such that they are located more than 7.5 metres away from the boundary of the city’s green space, street area or city-owned plot. If sufficient energy coverage is not achieved in this way, the borehole of the well can be tilted to the public area. The last option is to place the energy well field or a part of it entirely in the public area.

“The economic viability of geothermal energy has made it a very attractive heating method choice in recent years, and the city is trying to respond to this development by facilitating the permit process, for example. Geothermal energy is the best possible climate action for housing companies, as it also saves them money in addition to cutting the emissions,” says Kaisa-Reeta Koskinen, manager of the Carbon Neutral Helsinki action plan.

The guide for geothermal wells in public areas in Helsinki (Maalämpökaivot yleisillä alueilla Helsingissä, in Finnish) and the quick guide (in Finnish) set out more detailed criteria and conditions for implementing energy well fields in public areas that serve properties in the vicinity. Instead of geothermal wells, the guidelines refer to energy wells, since energy wells are increasingly used not only for heating but also for cooling.

The guide specifies what kinds of reports are required from the applicant. The guide contains examples of plans for the placement of geothermal systems in green areas and traffic areas. In addition, the guide deals with contractual practices, usage fees and termination terms.

To support the construction of energy wells, the city has already previously stopped charging building control permit fees for geothermal wells. In addition, the city’s own Energy Renaissance team provides free advice to housing companies on the transition to energy-efficient solutions, such as geothermal energy.


Photo: Jussi Rekiaro

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