Helsinki
96% of the city of Helsinki's carbon dioxide emissions come from the energy consumption in its public buildings.

Helsinki takes open data approach to carbon

The capital of Finland has opened the energy consumption data of its public buildings to application developers to help it become a carbon-neutral city.

How much electricity and district heat were consumed in a local school or library yesterday? The new Nuuka Open API, now open for testing, can be used to retrieve hourly electricity and heat consumption data for approximately 1,700 service buildings in the city of Helsinki. The ambition is to accelerate Helsinki’s journey towards becoming a carbon-neutral city.

The new open interface service was presented to application developers at the Helsinki Loves Developers event in February. The event brought together amateur coders and software companies in the city hall.

The city of Helsinki has been tracking the energy consumption of its buildings since the 1980s. With the carbon-neutral Helsinki 2035 programme, consumption-monitoring has become an increasingly important tool. Energy expert Veera Sevander reminded listeners at Helsinki Loves Developers that the heating of the public buildings alone will produce the lion’s share, 56%, of Helsinki’s greenhouse gas emissions. Far behind are both traffic and the use of electricity.

“And a staggering 96% of the City Group’s carbon dioxide emissions come from the energy consumption of its public properties. So, let’s talk about this huge pot,” Sevander says.

The city of Helsinki implemented the new Nuuka platform in spring 2019, for centralised monitoring of energy consumption and conditions in its public buildings. It makes all the information from the city’s public buildings accessible in one platform. The system is already collecting energy consumption data on the building stock of the entire city and will soon also include water consumption and waste volumes. The system also collects data on the indoor conditions of buildings, such as temperature, carbon dioxide levels, volatile organic compounds, and fine particle concentrations. In a few buildings, the system also provides user satisfaction information.

The data is being utilized in many ways. System alarms help respond to problems detected in buildings, while accurate energy consumption information enables improvement of the energy efficiency in the buildings. “The ultimate goal, according to Sevander, is to turn urban properties into intelligent buildings whose HVAC systems are controlled, based on the real-time measurement and indoor climate information.”

Olli Parkkonen, head of business development at Nuuka Solutions, says that many property owners complain about challenges in accessing their data.

“Information is in silos, scattered across different information systems. As a result, sharing information becomes difficult, as is utilising it,” Parkkonen describes. Helsinki’s new real-time data platform makes the same information accessible to everyone involved, from building owners and users to maintenance.

The city of Helsinki has long been a pioneer in opening up public data in the towns to everyone. But, what can you do with the energy consumption information of buildings? The question was answered at the seminar by application developer Juha Yrjölä. The Yrjölä system harnesses the Nuuka Open API’s hourly energy consumption data and combines it with weather data from the Finnish Meteorological Institute. Then, based on historical data, it simulates the size of an optimal solar power plant for each of the 1,700 service buildings in the city.

“The profitability of a solar photovoltaic investment is significantly affected by the property’s electricity consumption,” says Juha Yrjölä, “the best investment for a rooftop solar power plant is in properties that have the highest electricity consumption during the day and especially during the light season.”

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