Heating in Finland: towards sustainable energy consumption

A look at the heating in Finland landscape reveals how the country has been at the forefront of sustainable heating practices for decades. 

Through both technological advancements and dedicated action, pushed by favorable policy, Finland has achieved outstanding advancements in heating efficiency and sustainability. 

At the forefront of these developments are both district heating in Finland and renewable energy integration through the adoption of heat pump technologies and other strategies. The resulting outlook is one that highlights the importance of design and research for heating efficiency,  all paired with robust choices and initiatives that prioritize sustainability.

Today, heating in Europe accounts for a significant share of total energy use, as indoor heating is calculated to be responsible for 67% of residential energy usage in Europe (Odyssee, 2019). In this context, sustainable heating in Finland stands out as a well-positioned nation which, like Denmark and its district heating infrastructure, is set to achieve its goals of reducing carbon emissions and building a more sustainable future for heating.

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Current landscape for heating in Finland: some figures

Sustainable initiatives regarding heating in Finland go back decades, as figures from 2015 already reveal an extraordinary penetration of district heating in Finland. 

For instance, according to an official European report from 2015, district heating was the main heating model in 90% of apartment blocks, 30% of industrial buildings, and more than 60 % of other buildings. In fact, the same report highlights how the period between 2010 and 2014 involved the generation of around 800 MW of capacity for district heating. 

Additionally, some data that paints an accurate picture of current developments in the heating sector in Finland include:

  • Finland's Integrated Energy and Climate Plan aims at emissions-free electricity and heat production in Finland by the end of the 2030s without compromising supply security. Additionally, coal-fired heating will be banned as of 1st May 2029.
  • District heating in Finland is the most prevalent heating model, with carbon-neutral production being increasingly important. In 2023, it accounts for 45% of residential, commercial and public buildings, according to official figures. Common models for district heating in Finland include closed systems and fixed pricing.
  • The same official figures cite the growth of renewable energies within energy production, with heat recovery and electric boiler models increasing from 61% to 69% between 2022 and 2023. In fact, the share of renewables has more than doubled compared to 2010 levels (from 19% to 53%), while heat recovery initiatives have climbed from 2% to 14%.
  • CO2 emissions from district heating production decreased by 24% compared to the previous year, following the same official report. Emissions declined an outstanding 82% compared to 2003, the highest emissions year in the 2000s.

Trends shaping the future of heating in Finland

Expansion of district heating 

District heating in Finland is expected to expand, particularly in urban areas, considering the positive data around this system’s potential for heat decarbonization. Infrastructure upgrades and new initiatives are expected to be significantly supported by government initiatives, while private sector investment will also play a key role.

This expansion will go hand in hand with the growing integration of combined heat and power (CHP) plants, which is becoming more prevalent due to their energy efficiency potential. In fact, the growth of waste-to-energy plants was already highlighted in the 2015 European report cited above.

Increasing renewable energy integration

Renewable energy sources will continue to be integrated within sustainable heating in Finland. In 2023, renewable energies were already responsible for 42% of the heating share (the largest share), reaching 552,000 TJ (compared to 392,850 TJ for fossil fuels and 357,129 TJ for nuclear). At the time of the report, biomass, particularly wood fuels, and recovered heat were the main renewable sources, with biomass more than doubling in the last decade, and recovered heat having quadrupled compared to 2010.

As the integration of  large-scale heat pump continues to advance, greater flexibility in renewable source choices can be expected to gain traction.

Towards greater energy efficiency

Building retrofitting initiatives and smart heating solutions are expected to play an increasingly important role in reducing heat loss and energy consumption in Finland.

At the same time, improving the efficiency of district heating systems remains a priority, and an area where cutting-edge technologies represent a promising potential.

Such is the case of thermal energy storage initiatives, set to play a crucial role in balancing the supply and demand of heat more effectively, thereby increasing overall efficiency of district heating systems. This is achieved by allowing excess heat to be captured and used later when needed, rather than being wasted. They also come with added value, balancing the supply and demand of heat, which reduces the need for backup heating sources during peak periods. 

Considering the particularities of district heating in Finland and the country’s winter conditions, TES tanks thus stand out as a foreseeable trend for the near future.

The implementation of industrial heat pumps will also be crucial in this context, as they’re capable of upgrading lower-grade heating for efficient heating generation, all while facilitating the electrification of heating production and the integration of a variety of renewable energies.

The adequacy of large scale heat pumps for district heating in Finland is highlighted when looking at their outstanding efficiency standards, such as the Seasonal Performance Factor (SPF). The SPF measures a heat pump's efficiency over an entire heating or cooling season, and it remains one of the key indicators that will likely continue to be improved, building from already impressive numbers.

By optimizing system components, and enhancing integration with renewable energy sources, industrial heat pumps are thus becoming an essential feature of district heating models for the future.

Incorporating these strategies, players within the heating industry in Finland are all working to achieve greater efficiency and reduced energy consumption. Just like with initiatives in district heating in Canada and district heating in Sweden, Finland will see how this model continues to translate into lower operating costs, and decreased environmental impact.

While Finland’s achievements in recent years are already promising, technological advancements and solid initiatives towards a more sustainable and resilient heating sector are aiming at an even greater goal. 

In the foreseeable future, continued investments in infrastructure, policy support, and research and development are likely to further drive Finland's transition towards greater sustainability and efficiency in heating.

At ARANER, we are at the forefront of cutting-edge thermal engineering and are excited to be part of Finland’s present and future district heating initiatives. With our focus on enhanced efficiency and sustainability, we work to become the trusted allies needed to develop the district heating strategies of the future.

Want to learn more about our district heating services? Get in touch with us and discover how we help organizations achieve maximum efficiency and sustainability in district heating developments.

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