TAP Time: Europe (2)

“TAP Time” sessions at the Cities & Regions Pavilion showcase the most promising projects from the Transformative Actions Program (TAP).

Today’s Europe TAP Time session, entitled “Leading the Way towards a Low-Carbon Europe,” was divided into two sessions. The second featured presentations from Patrick Gladh, Vice Chairman of Gothenburg’s energy company; and Risto Veivo (Development Manager for Climate, Environmental Policy and Sustainable Developement of City Group of Turku). The cities are linked by their desire to green their energy systems in a comprehensive fashion, as a part of the city’s efforts to achieve emissions reductions targets.

Gothenburg’s “GoBiGas – Gothenburg Biomass Gasification Project” is the largest instance of the use of forest residues for the production of renewable fuel. It aims to transform 65 percent of the energy contained in the forest residues into high value biomethane. If the plant runs as planned, it will produce energy equivalent to that required to power sixteen thousand cars.

The project is a world-first for the production of biomethane directly injected into the regional gas grid. It was developed by Gothenburg Energy, the largest municipally-owned energy company in Sweden, in 2007. Henrik Forsgren (Director of Public Affairs, Gothenburg Energy Company) explained that for the project to be replicated, a long-term EU strategy for biofuels is required. This must be coupled with financial support for biofuel production. Countries should also make use of their specific available local resources.

Turku has set itself the goal of becoming carbon-neutral at the latest by 2040. Risto Veivo explained that the most important element of achieving this goal is the reduction of emissions from the energy system, which is responsible for two thirds of greenhouse gas emissions in Turku. Currently 25 percent of the city’s energy is produced from renewables, and the share will be more than half from the beginning of 2018. To continue its energy transition, Turku is pursuing a number of projects, including the expansion of biogas production, improvement of energy efficiency in buildings and the construction of a multi-fuel combined heat and power plant.

This has involved collaboration with a range of stakeholders. Risto Vaittinen (Managing Director, Turku Energia) explained that energy companies are working with cities with the aims of “reliability, profitability and sustainability”. He added that by focusing so strongly on renewable energy, Turku Energie had “put all our eggs in one basket”. Another of Turku’s collaborations is with Sitra, a future-oriented think-do-tank. Sitra facilitates cooperation: as Mari Pantsar (Director, Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra) explained, “cities often have limited resources and the best way to overcome this is to exchange resources”.

In the discussion following the session, Patrick Gladh emphasized the need for long-term planning, explaining that one project in Gothenburg required 27 years of investment to make a profit. It was therefore important to look ahead in ways that stayed outside of political change. Risto Veivo stated that the barriers for replication and expansion were not so much around financing but around knowledge sharing. Veivo said that Turku was keen to explore new ways of sharing knowledge with and learning from other cities.

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