Winter is coming! Energy efficiency measures are back in the spotlight

2023-12-08 Sanna Päivärinta and Axel Hagman 

The news of the energy crisis and electricity sufficiency took over various media and coffee table discussions last winter. Quite deservedly so, as the risk of electricity shortages was real and especially high on cold winter days. At the same time, the price of electricity skyrocketed and many struggled with their electricity bills.

Surviving the winter required a concerted effort and participation in saving electricity from all of Finnish society. This was a success, and there was enough energy for everyone! According to Fingrid (, electricity consumption decreased by approximately six per cent in total in 2022, and up to 10 per cent of electricity was saved during individual months. Although the price of electricity for the coming winter looks significantly cheaper than last year, many simultaneous events may still affect the price of electricity and bring surprises.

The energy crisis and electricity shortages affect the municipal sector just as much as other operators. However, Finnish municipalities have been working for a long time to promote energy efficiency.

Voluntary actions are effective on a European scale

Finnish municipalities and cities have actively set an example with their ambitious climate targets. The targets have not just been all talk – municipalities have demonstrated their ability and effectiveness in climate and environmental issues with numerous different measures. With their actions, municipalities have also set an example to other operators.

One of the most central parts of the municipalities' range of measures are investments in the energy efficiency of a municipality's own property portfolio. As part of energy efficiency measures, numerous municipalities have committed to the Municipal Energy Efficiency Agreement (KETS), which is the state's way of implementing the EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive. The joint energy use of all parties to the agreement accounts for almost 60 per cent of Finland's total energy use, meaning that this is no small matter. This is especially true given that joining the Energy Efficiency Agreement is entirely voluntary. However, it must be remembered that a volunteer basis only works as long as the agreement activities are comprehensive and meet the set goals.

The EU is currently updating the Energy Efficiency Directive and its targets. The question is: how do we implement the increasingly stringent EU energy and climate targets at national level? Bringing EU directives into national law would remove the current agility of energy efficiency measures and tie municipalities to the inflexibility of the legislative mechanism. The role of energy efficiency agreements and their content will be even more pronounced in the future in a situation where the economy of many municipalities is expected to dive.

Municipalities as pioneers and boosters of vitality

At the same time, there is starting to be if not an urgent then at least a great need for new solutions and innovations aimed at energy efficiency in the changing operating environment. Existing solutions are known and, where applicable, used by municipalities. Today, municipalities are operating at the cutting edge and piloting new energy solutions. The best and most profitable solutions are also replicated in other properties in the municipality and may even be scaled to the national level. In doing so, municipalities can also offer an interesting platform for local energy companies and thereby bring vitality to the region.

Projects such as Canemure enable municipalities to take energy efficiency measures from the municipalities’ own starting points. In its own sub-projects, the City of Porvoo, for example, has succeeded in introducing two-way district heating in Keskuskoulu, the city's largest primary school. In addition, smart and predictive electricity and heat management systems have also been introduced at two different sites, as well as demand response for district heat in 19 different properties. Keskuskoulu, for example, has been able to save up to 40 per cent of its energy consumption with these measures. In the autumn, the city will also publish on its website information on the energy consumption and production of its own key properties. With the help of this monitoring tool, everyone has the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the electricity and heat consumption of the city's properties.

Residents ultimately pay the municipal energy bill

However, the energy efficiency measures taken by the municipality are almost completely lacking in media appeal, and the topic does not seem to be very interesting to residents either. Why should residents even be interested in the issue? What does it matter, what the municipality does in its own properties?

Every resident should remember that they are the ones who ultimately pay the municipal energy bill. Saving on the energy bill makes it possible to direct the money to other activities, which contributes to the provision of high-quality and concrete services to the residents of the municipality.

Municipal properties are also used by several different user groups, the largest of which are often children and young people in schools. The indoor conditions of properties have a huge impact on the feeling of comfort, and perhaps too little is said about the effects of energy efficiency measures on indoor conditions. Although the municipality is happy about the money saved by energy efficiency measures, one of its most important objectives, if not the most important, is to produce a higher quality and healthier indoor environment for children, young people and adults alike.

Therefore, measures aimed at energy efficiency are also profitable for the municipality’s residents, not just for the municipality. Last winter showed that we can change our consumption habits and save energy with actions both big and small. The fact that we take these actions together and encourage each other brings a touch more impact to the end result.

Written by

Sanna Päivärinta and Axel Hagman 


City of Porvoo

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