Farewell to peat – Seinäjoen Energia on the fast track to carbon neutrality

The city had been deliberating on different power plant solutions for a long time. The city’s district heating was dependent on a single power plant and peat as fuel. Peat has become more and more expensive, which has caused upward pressure on the prices of district heating. This made it necessary to look into new alternatives.

Different kinds of waste incinerators and bigger power plant solutions were compared. In 2018, the decision was made to decentralise production to several smaller facilities instead of one large facility. A biofuel plant that will produce heat for half the city will begin its trial runs in autumn 2022. The plant was funded with MuniFin’s green finance.

“We decided not to put all our eggs in one basket. The new facility will secure the reliable production of renewable energy but will also leave room for other solutions”, says Mikko Mursula, head of district heating unit at Seinäjoen Energia.

The company updated its strategy a year after deciding on the decentralisation of production. This included setting the strategic goal of carbon neutrality by 2030.

“Until then, we did not have any concrete steps laid out ahead besides the new Kapernaum heat plant, nor did we have a clear timetable for the reduction of peat use”, Mursula says.

The fuel used in the new Kapernaum heat plant comes from different kinds of sawmill and forest felling by-products such as tree bark, sawdust and forest chips. What sets the plant aside from the rest is that it can utilise even very moist wood – the wood that is burned can have a moisture content of up to 65 per cent. There is no need to dry out the wood in piles when even freshly felled wood burns efficiently in the incinerators of the facility. The heat from flue gases is also recovered.

“While it’s not a new innovation in the industry, we are implementing flue gas heat recovery for the first time. Using modern technology, our plant now puts out 40-degree flue gas instead of the previous 150 degrees.”

An investment of more than EUR 30 million, the boiler project also includes the already completed fuel reception and processing systems. It also serves the old peat boiler.

“The new logistics already began to generate savings last summer when we started burning wood instead of peat in the old boiler.”

Heat pumps in a key role

The new heat boiler is not the only thing moving Seinäjoen Energia closer to carbon neutrality. A new auxiliary plant in Hanneksenrinne which uses pellets instead of oil was completed in 2020. In the near future, total investments will reach about EUR 60 million. It is estimated that carbon dioxide emissions will drop from the nearly 660,000 tonnes in 2018 to below 14,000 tonnes by 2023. For customers, the investments mean steadily priced and clean renewable energy.

“We have mapped out the options and aim to increase everything else except combustion-based production. Even CO2-free combustion may be unacceptable in energy production in the future”, Mursula ponders.

A new data centre being built in Seinäjoki will produce about 10 per cent of the city’s district heat supply. This is roughly equivalent to the annual demand of all the city’s single-family houses. If all goes as planned, the data centre can eventually produce heat for one third of Seinäjoki. Seinäjoen Energia has been involved in the project over the last few years.

“The data centre is designed to operate on renewable power. The heat of the data centre is recovered with heat pumps and transferred to the district heating water. Green electricity in, green heat out”, Mursula describes.

Heat pumps have an even bigger role in Seinäjoen Energia’s work towards carbon neutrality. Heat recovery and the more extensive utilisation of waste heat are being canvassed. Wastewater heat recovery could provide as much as 10 per cent of the city’s energy demand in the future. A project by EPV Energy involving the construction of a new district heating battery and electric boiler in connection to the Seinäjoki power plant is due for completion in 2022. EPV also provides wind energy for Seinäjoen Energia.

“The energy sector and the electricity market are undergoing quite an upheaval. Wind energy production is growing. Sometimes there is an oversupply of electricity, sometimes the supply does not meet the demand. On freezing winter days, the energy demand in Seinäjoki can double. The district heating battery enables us to store energy when there is excess supply”, Mursula explains.

The Government’s aid and taxation policy encourages businesses to make the green transition and heat pump investments.

“There has been uncertainty regarding the viability of heat pump investments. Investment aid speeds up investments and reduces the related risks. At the moment, investments are very profitable also due to the low interest rates”, Mursula adds.

Text: Hannele Borra

Photos: Seinäjoen Energia

MuniFin strengthens its investment practices and publishes Sustainable Investment Framework

MuniFin’s ultimate objective is to embed sustainability across all its business areas. Treasury has further set concrete sustainability targets for its investments. The Framework is a transparent way to communicate these targets and principles to all our stakeholders, such as customers, investors and ESG rating agencies.

“Sustainability is in our DNA at MuniFin. This is evident in our core business, as our mission is to develop the Finnish welfare state, and in our tradition of being an active issuer of sustainable bonds. Now we want to strengthen our role as a responsible institution by publishing our own framework for sustainable investing”, says Pasi Heikkilä, Head of Treasury and Capital Markets Services.

The new Sustainable Investment Framework is one important step on MuniFin’s sustainability roadmap.

“We work hard to develop our operations in line with our strategy and values of which sustainability is a key element. The creation of Sustainable Investment Framework is part of the systematic work we carry out. We aim to increase the transparency of our investment management and promote sustainable investment practices. Simultaneously, we acknowledge the increasing importance of ESG risks that should be considered in managing our investments. This is the next step and we will continue walking”, says Kalle Kinnunen, Sustainability Manager at MuniFin.

Read the Sustainable Investment Framework here.

Further information

Pasi Heikkilä, Head of Treasury and Capital Markets Services, MuniFin
Tel. +358 50 328 8837

Kalle Kinnunen, Sustainability Manager, Funding and Sustainability, MuniFin
Tel. +358 400 489 425

Wood or concrete? TVT compares the environmental effects of construction materials

Two identical-looking buildings are rising in Arola, Turku. This time, however, looks are deceiving: one building is made of wood and the other of concrete. They are built in a project comparing the environmental effects of construction materials. The project is managed by TVT Asunnot, a housing provider owned by the City of Turku. 

“The city aims to be carbon neutral by 2029, and this is one of our ways to contribute towards that goal. As a company with social relevance, we have an opportunity to experiment”, says Johannes Malmi, development director at TVT. 

Using wood for construction is nothing new, but this is the first wooden apartment building built by TVT.  

Johannes Malmi, development director at TVT, is happy the project is advancing according to the plans.

“We have nearly 500 apartments in old wooden buildings, built in urban areas in the early 1900s. Wood is a very common construction material, but other materials have been more popular in large buildings in recent decades”, notes Teppo Forss, CEO at TVT. 

The project to construct the seemingly identical but internally different buildings was initiated three years ago. The work has progressed according to schedule, and residents should be able to move in at the end of this year. The traditional celebration marking the completion of the roof was held this May, although only in a small way due to the still ongoing coronavirus pandemic.  

At the moment, the wooden construction has progressed slightly further than the concrete one, and the construction sites look different because the wood frame is built under a weather cover to protect it from rain.  

“If you hear music blasting from under the cover system, that’s just the builders in their natural habitat”, Malmi chuckles, also noting that the wooden construction is looking very nice and convincing so far. 

The finished buildings will not only look very similar, but they will also have almost identical floor plans. The wooden building uses cross-laminated timber, and only a very keen eye can see that it has slightly larger outer dimensions for technical reasons. The design and type of structure of the buildings, however, is entirely different, resulting in different acoustics and fire safety solutions, for example. 

“We left some wooden parts visible as a visual element, especially in the walls that have windows. We would have liked to leave even more, but couldn’t because of fire safety reasons. We also used some concrete as a visual element in the concrete building”, Forss explains. 

Learning from other projects 

The two buildings are monitored in many ways. Their construction waste is known by the kilogram, their carbon footprint and handprint are calculated carefully, and their energy use is measured and compared. Resident surveys will be conducted frequently, for example to find out how residents experience the sounds and acoustics in the buildings. Malmi is also looking forward to finding out if one of the buildings will prove more popular in residential applications. 

Proven materials and construction practices that have been tried and tested are used in the project, says Teppo Forss, CEO at TVT.

According to Malmi, neither of the two different construction materials required any significant compromises, but the wooden building was somewhat more expensive to construct. 

“Unlike in concrete construction, ready-made packages are not available for large timber construction, so orders have to be customised individually. Volumes are also smaller and suppliers don’t have as much competition as there perhaps ought to be. This makes wooden construction more costly”, Malmi summarises.  

Before initiating the project, TVT studied a similar project by A-Kruunu, including their environmental calculations.

“We had access to this information from an excellent Finnish example that we could make use of. We developed our carbon footprint calculations and added resident satisfaction as a measured goal based on A-Kruunu’s project”, Forss reports.  

Forss and Malmi agree that the project was a learning experience that will likely yield rewards long after the construction phase. They are eager to share their experiences and have received inquiries also from outside Finland.  

“Better homes, one building at a time” 

So far, TVT’s experience in constructing a wooden apartment building has been a positive one, and worth considering in the future, too. 

“Unfortunately, urban planning prohibits wooden apartment buildings in many areas in Turku. Even this project required changes to town plans. It seems that urban planning follows changes in regulation very slowly and does not encourage experimenting”, Malmi comments. 

Forss emphasises that non-profit companies must build long-lasting homes that are safe and healthy to live in. He has a neutral approach towards the construction materials: “It is important for us to use proven materials and construction practices that have been tried and tested. Experiments must therefore be kept limited in number, but when the construction volume is large and there is a high level of know-how involved, the experiments tend to be successful.” 

This experiment in wooden construction is one of TVT’s steps towards carbon neutrality, and the company also watches the development of the concrete industry closely. TVT implements numerous sustainability measures throughout the building’s entire lifecycle, from land acquisition and construction to habitation and renovation. Residents are encouraged to take climate action through waste, heat and water consumption practices. 

In addition to environmental measures, affordability is another major point of consideration. Many rental apartments have recently been built in Turku and many more are planned, but housing is nevertheless becoming more and more expensive, which is a worrying trend. 

“Every sector of the city should give thought to how we could make housing more affordable. The process from town plans to finished apartments is a long one, and costs can be affected throughout the entire process. It is our own city that we’re building, and we should remember that”, Malmi states. 

“It is important for us to make apartments that the residents can afford and enjoy. In the best case, we can do so while also developing methods that have wider social benefits. We are building better homes, one building at a time”, Forss concludes. 

Carbon footprint 

Carbon footprint refers to carbon dioxide emissions caused by human activity. In most cases, it is reported in carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), which also accounts for other significant greenhouse gases, most importantly methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). 

Carbon hand print

Carbon handprint describes the climate benefits of a product, process or service. Anyone can create a carbon handprint – a state, a company, an association or an individual. For example, when a company generates a carbon handprint for its customer, the customer can reduce their own carbon footprint. 

In addition to developing their own operations, companies can improve their carbon handprint by actively introducing to the market new innovations, products, solutions or services that generate positive environmental impacts during their use. Many solutions of circular economy produce their customers a carbon handprint when compared to a similar, more conventional solution. The carbon handprint highlights the positive future effects on emissions, whereas the carbon footprint focuses on the negative effects on emissions. 

Written by Hannele Borra
Photos by TVT Asunnot

New heart of Valkeala

Kouvolan kaupungin suunnittelupäällikkö Risto Mikkola kuvattuna vaaleaa taustaa vasten.
According to Risto Mikkola, quality and environmentally friendly solutions were emphasised in the tendering phase.

“Eagerly anticipated”, sums up Risto Mikkola, planning manager at the City of Kouvola, describing the new community centre in the urban area of Valkeala, whose construction is set to begin in late summer. The comment is apt, considering that the project began in 2017, but had to be put on hold due to a school network reform in 2018.

The restructuring of the school network cut the number of schools in the area from 34 to 20. The old village schools are making room for new multi-purpose buildings that will also host day-care services, youth services, hobby clubs and local associations. The Valkeala community centre will be the first of these modern buildings.

“The building will rise on the main street, at the site of Valkeala’s old town hall. The community centre will become Valkeala’s new heart in many ways”, Mikkola predicts.

After the school network reform was settled, the work on the community centre has progressed on time – although without any visible construction, the design phase may have appeared slow to the local residents.

“Lots of work has been done, but so far there are no physical results to show for it. Now that we are about to enter the construction phase, the project will start feeling more tangible for the residents, too”, says Hellevi Kunnas, director of finance at the City of Kouvola.

In this project, the contractor is YIT Group. The contracts will be signed on 4 June, and the groundwork is set to begin late this summer.

High praise from the Green Evaluation Team

The Valkeala community centre is funded with MuniFin’s green finance, and the project scored the highest ever points from the MuniFin Green Evaluation Team in the suistainable buildings category. Risto Mikkola confirms that there were no special tricks involved: the high score was the result of determined and systematic work.

“In the tendering phase, we emphasised quality and environmentally friendly solutions, which worked out well. We’re very happy and also a little surprised to have scored this well”, Mikkola notes happily.

MuniFin’s Green Evaluation Team praised the community centre project for its material choices, energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, high utilisation rate of services, and the exemplary treatment of stormwater. The building will mainly use district heating, which is produced locally in Kouvola with exceptionally low emissions.

Green values played an important role not just in the building’s environmental impact, but also in its design. In the tendering process, the city set clear criteria for the role nature should play at the community centre. For example, all plans included the possibility of backyard farming.

“Children should have a chance to dig their hands in the dirt, if only for health reasons. This has been one of our goals right from the start”, Mikkola emphasises.

Breathing new life into the old population centre

Kouvolan kaupungin talousjohtaja Hellevi Kunnas kuvattuna vaaleaa taustaa vasten.
The community centre is by far the largest project the City of Kouvola has funded with lease financing, says Hellevi Kunnas.

The Valkeala community centre is by far the largest project the City of Kouvola has funded with lease financing and the first so called lifecycle project. The city has traditionally used its own funding and maintenance, but now wanted to try something new.

“We wanted to explore new alternatives because there are so many options available today. We have built some day‑care centres with lease financing before, and now we’ll get to test the lifecycle model in practice. It’s important not to get stuck doing things the same way”, explains Kunnas, the City of Kouvola director of finance.

Experience was also sought from outside the city, for example from the Heinsuo school in Hollola, where the lifecycle model has already proved successful. Another reference project is the Mansikkala school in Imatra, which is currently under construction. The purpose of visiting these schools with teachers was not only to learn about the lifecycle model, but also to hear opinions on what a modern learning environment should look like. After all, multi-purpose facilities are not without their challenges.

“When the curriculum was reformed in 2016, it swinged rather heavily in the direction of an open model. Soon after, it became clear that there cannot be too many groups working in the same space without the groups disturbing each other. Now we have taken a step back and combined the more separate and more open approaches”, Mikkola says.

The city and the service providers are currently drawing the big design lines for the community centre together with the teachers. Mikkola praises the lifecycle partner YIT for their model of participatory design.

“In May, before the summer holidays, we will make the major decisions that affect the building’s shape and yard functions. In the autumn, we will continue with details like the shelves and cabinets. YIT has provided a really good framework for this process.”

A small section of the old high school will be demolished in the summer to make room for the new 10,000-square-metre multi-purpose building. Excavation and piling work will begin towards the end of the summer, and foundations will be cast in the autumn.

The Valkeala community centre will kick off a series of large school projects in Kouvola. The next multi-purpose buildings are planned in Inkeroinen, with renovations planned for Kuusankoski and the Kouvola city centre as well. For local people, the school projects instil confidence in the vitality of their home region.

“Residents have had serious concerns about the future of this area. The community centre is an indication that we will continue to invest in Valkeala. The old town is gaining new vitality”, Kunnas summarises.

Written by Roope Huotari

Picture by YIT Oyj & Linja Arkkitehdit Oy

Photos by interviewees

Kalle Kinnunen appointed MuniFin’s first Sustainability Manager

In his new role, Kinnunen is in charge of establishing MuniFin’s ESG strategy and roadmap, creating best practices and integrating sustainability in all MuniFin operations.

“My job is to respond both internally and externally to the expectations of our customers, investors, supervisory authorities and other stakeholders and to react to new opportunities in the fast-changing field of sustainability”, says Kalle Kinnunen.

“Responsibility and sustainable development are top themes at the moment, and we’ll also continue to solidify their position as the bedrock of our strategy. Both the markets and regulation are undergoing massive changes, so we must put even more effort into staying up to speed. Because we aim to call ourselves pioneers also in the future, we have recently hired our new Sustainability Manager and established a new virtual sustainability team”, says Joakim Holmström, head of capital markets and sustainability at MuniFin.

Thanks to his participation in various development projects, Kinnunen is already familiar with MuniFin.

“Through our previous projects, Kalle has gained a solid overall view of our operations. His strong background in sustainability and development work will help him succeed in this new role, which cuts through our entire organisation”, Holmström notes.

Motivated by meaningful work and the chance to make an impact

The new Sustainability Manager is motivated by meaningful work.

“Climate change is one of the greatest challenges that the humankind must tackle. The financial sector and the municipal sector play a significant role in building a better future. My role at MuniFin offers me a chance to make as big a positive impact as possible”, explains Kinnunen.

Sustainability is already an integral part of MuniFin’s organisation and operations, and Kinnunen speaks highly of the company’s sustainable finance products.

“We already have great finance products and we are internationally recognised as a pioneer in issuing green and social bonds. As we speak, our customers across Finland are making socially and environmentally sustainable investments, which are partly enabled by our finance. But the field of sustainability is evolving at a dizzying speed, and it is my job to make sure that we not only keep up with the pace, but preferably lead the way”, Kinnunen says.

Kinnunen finds his new employer fascinating: in terms of personnel numbers, it is relatively small and agile, but in terms of balance sheet, MuniFin is the third largest credit institution in Finland, and one with great social significance.

“The influence I can exercise within the organisation is real, and my work involves collaboration at all levels of the organisation. I my opinion, establishing a Sustainability Manager role speaks volumes of MuniFin’s genuine ambitions in sustainable development.

The sporty Sustainability Manager recovers from work by exercising.

“In my free time, I like to challenge myself by practicing endurance sports: running, cycling and swimming”, says Kinnunen.

Kalle Kinnunen

  • Sustainability Manager since 6 April 2021
  • Motivated by meaningful work
  • Graduated as M.Sc. in Economics and Business Administration from the Lappeenranta University of Technology in 2015 and he is also a CFA charterholder
  • Lives in Vantaa
  • Hobbies include running, cycling and swimming

Photo by Aya Brace

Written by Jenni Heikkilä

Green finance for green pioneers

Since 2016, MuniFin has offered green finance to selected projects that promote the transition to low-carbon and climate resilient growth. Green projects are financed at a discount based on their estimated environmental benefits. Today, MuniFin’s green finance covers over 200 projects across Finland – from the capital of Helsinki to Inari in Northern Lapland.

Green projects range from sustainable buildings to sustainable public transportation, from waste to environmental management. They are selected using MuniFin’s Green Bonds Framework.

On the video, Saara Vauramo, programme director for the Lahti European Green Capital 2021 initiative, Teija Ojankoski, CEO of VAV Group, Janne Salonen, finance manager at the city of Tampere and Timo Kenakkala, mayor of Hämeenlinna, describe green projects and the ambitious climate work of cities and municipalities across Finland.

Watch the video!

Read more about MuniFin’s Green bonds

Download MuniFin’s Sustainable Bonds Impact Report (link, opens to a new window)

MuniFin wins Green bond of the year 2021 award by Environmental Finance

The Green bond of the year award was given to MuniFin by Environmental Finance, which is an online news and analysis service. Environmental Finance reports on sustainable investment, green finance and the people and companies active in the environmental markets.

 – We are delighted and honored to win this award, which is highly valued by market participants. This award is a testimony to our long-term commitment in the field of sustainability. Our ultimate goal is to promote Finland’s climate targets, where local governments play a key role, says Antti Kontio, Head of Funding and Sustainability at MuniFin.

This is not the first time MuniFin ‘s green bonds have received recognition from Environmental Finance. In 2018 MuniFin was awarded in the categories of Green Bond of the Year (SSA) and Biggest issuer (local authority).

MuniFin promotes the achievement of Finland’s climate targets and encourages its customers to achieve theirs by offering green finance for investments that have positive environmental effects. MuniFin is a pioneer in promoting environmentally sustainable development by being the first Finnish issuer of green bonds in 2016. The total amount of outstanding green bonds issued by MuniFin is currently approximately EUR 2 billion.

Green finance is offered to selected projects that promote the transition to low-carbon and climate resilient growth in seven categories. These include sustainable buildings, sustainable public transportation, water and wastewater management, renewable energy, energy efficiency, waste management and environmental management. MuniFin offers a margin discount of 0–10 basis points to approved green finance projects evaluated by an independent expert group.

Second opinion provider Cicero has awarded MuniFin’s Green Bond Framework with its second-best ‘Medium Green’ rating. The Framework has been drafted in accordance to the Green Bond Principles of the International Capital Markets Association (ICMA).

MuniFin has recently set a goal for 20% of its long-term customer finance portfolio to be labelled green and social finance by 2024, standing at around 9% at the end 2020.

Exceptionally strong investor demand

MuniFin issued the award winning green bond on Tuesday 6 October 2020. The 10-year EUR 500 million green bond was the fourth public benchmark green bond issued by MuniFin. Investor interest was exceptionally strong: the order book grew to EUR 3.4 billion, which is the largest green bond order book to date for MuniFin.

The amount of ESG focused investors also grew to 55%, which is the highest allocation to this investor group seen in MuniFin’s green bonds.

Issuer:Municipality Finance Plc (MuniFin)
Rating:Aa1 / AA+ (Moody’s/S&P – both stable)
Issue size:EUR 500mn (no-grow)
Payment date:14th October 2020 (T+6)
Maturity date:14th October 2030
Re-offer price:101.992%
Re-offer yield:-0.1970%
Re-offer vs. mid swaps:+2bps
Re-offer vs. benchmark:DBR 0% 08/2030 + 30.7bps
Lead managers:Danske Bank, NatWest Markets, Nomura, Nordea

Further information

Antti Kontio
Head of Funding and Sustainability, MuniFin
Tel. +358 500 3700285

Written by Jenni Heikkilä

The pandemic highlighted MuniFin’s role in 2020 – Annual Report and Sustainable Bonds Impact Report published

MuniFin’s CEO Esa Kallio and Executive Vice President Aku Dunderfelt discuss the year 2020 at MuniFin.

Overall growth and very strong investor interest in social finance

In 2020, the demand for funding among MuniFin customers increased substantially. Our finance for new projects totalled EUR 4,699 million, increasing by as much as 52% from 2019.

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted us to quickly adapt to remote work, but we were able to serve our customers without interruptions by creating new customer service channels and expanding our digital services.

“The economic reports by our chief economist and the training on our digital services have been highly popular”, Kallio notes.

The social finance we launched in early 2020 received a highly positive reception, and we granted a total of 589 million euros across 27 projects. We also issued the first Nordic social bond in the SSA category for international investors. The social bond had a EUR 500 million issue size and was overbooked by nearly four times, signalling overwhelming demand for this product.

Even though capital markets were unstable, particularly in the spring, our own funding continued without interruption throughout 2020. Our long-term funding rose to EUR 11 billion.

“The success of our benchmark bonds during this period of uncertainty shows that we have a successful funding strategy and good reputation in the international capital market. The year 2020 further highlighted MuniFin’s core mandate”, says Kallio happily.

In 2020, we continued to reform our organisation and operating practices. We will continue to further develop our operations and digital services.

“In all we do, we aim to provide even better and even more efficient service for our customers”, Kallio concludes.

Further information:

Heidi Penttinen, Communications Specialist, Tel. +358 45 2139 3229

The most powerful wastewater treatment plant in the Nordic countries built partly on MuniFin’s green finance

Built by the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY, the Blominmäki wastewater treatment plant will replace the current Suomenoja treatment plant from 1963, whose operational limits will soon be reached.

The Suomenoja plant processes the wastewater from Espoo, Kauniainen, Kirkkonummi, Siuntio and Western Vantaa, where population is expected to increase significantly in the coming decades. The adoption of the Blominmäki plant will reduce the nutrient load per capita on the Baltic Sea from the current load.

“Our goal is to remove more than 98% of the phosphorus and more than 90% of the nitrogen from the wastewater. The new plant will also improve wastewater treatment reliability and capacity: the Blominmäki plant will be able to process the wastewater of more than half a million people”, says Tommi Fred, director of support services and water supply at HSY.

The treatment goals set for the Blominmäki plant are clearly stricter than the EU requirements and the recommendations of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission HELCOM.

Modern plant blends in with the surroundings and generates its own energy

The Blominmäki plant will be built deep inside bedrock. This solution is sensible both for the environment and the plant’s operations.

“This way, the basins and machines will be safe from pests and our trying weather conditions. The land area on top of the caves will remain mostly unchanged, allowing its continued use as a recreational area. The routes used by flying squirrels and other animals were mapped and taken into account at the initial planning stages: we wanted to keep the green corridors as wide as possible”, says Fred.

Wastewater treatment plants are notorious for their stench, but the Blominmäki plant has found a way to eliminate this problem: a chimney will lead the plant’s exhaust air so high up in the sky that the odour will not be of bother to local residents.

The treatment plant will also achieve almost full energy independence: it will generate more than half of its electricity needs and exceed its heating energy needs.

“From the perspective of circular economy, the Blominmäki plant excels at everything! We can even store excess heat energy to use when the weather gets freezing. No other wastewater treatment plant employs similar technology”, Fred says.

At the Blominmäki plant, every detail is carefully considered. Because the plant is built deep inside bedrock, the land area on top of the caves will remain almost unchanged.

Environmentally friendly work attracts investors

From the environmental perspective, the Blominmäki plant has a crystal-clear main goal: protecting the Baltic Sea. 

Thanks to the plant’s ambitious treatment goals, the project was eligible for a wider-than-usual range of funding options. By acknowledging environmental considerations at all stages of the planning process, the Blominmäki plant qualified for MuniFin’s green finance and the Nordic Investment Bank’s loan.

The largest ever investment in the history of HSY has also been funded by the European Investment Bank. 

“Positive developments do not come about spontaneously; they require action. Because the Blominmäki plant processes wastewater sustainably and promotes a cleaner Baltic Sea, it is a long-term investment in a brighter future. It is not often you get to carry out a project of this scale”, says Pekka Hänninen, finance director at HSY. 

Wastewater treatment has advanced in leaps and bounds in the past thirty years. In Finland, treatment plants have already completed the most important improvements, bringing their treatment power to almost 100%. But according to Hänninen, the work is not yet complete.

“By setting an example, Finland has had a massive impact on the operations of other Baltic Sea states. We believe that Blominmäki’s innovative solutions will also be of interest to our colleagues in other countries. For example, there aren’t really any treatment plants built in bedrock outside the Nordic countries. In the end, the entire world will benefit from any effort we put in clean water. Water unites us all.”

The Blominmäki wastewater treatment plant is a state-of-the-art project that will set an example to others in the field.

Written by Sanna Puutonen
Photos by HSY

Concerns over EU’s proposed Taxonomy for sustainable activities

As a part of EU’s Action Plan for financing sustainable growth, the European Commission is working on an EU Taxonomy, a classification system for sustainable activities. The EU requested feedback on the draft of the first set of criteria for the first two environmental objectives, climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation, in November. The deadline for the feedback was 18 December 2020.

Nordic agencies, MuniFin, Kommunalbanken and Kommuninvest, all seasoned green bonds issuers, have worked on a joint response regarding the EU’s proposed Taxonomy. Each institution has based their feedback on the common Nordic position on the issue and presented their view individually to the Commission.

A concern was expressed that the current draft of the Taxonomy delegated act risks considerably slowing down the harmonisation of the sustainable finance market. The feedback states that the administrative burden could grow to be too high, which could lead project owners (MuniFin’s customers) to prefer traditional borrowing requiring less disclosure. This could eventually lead to fewer eligible assets.

“The Taxonomy is an important tool that can drive the real economy towards making greener investments. However, in order for the Taxonomy to be usable, the so called Do No Significant Harm (DNSH) criteria should be simplified to relieve the excessive administrative burden on the project owner. The principle of proportionality should also be considered. Moreover, we feel the requirements and thresholds of the technical screening criteria should take regional contexts into account to reflect actual differences in environmental performance”, says Karoliina Kajova, Funding Manager at MuniFin.

MuniFin’s feedback

Further information

Karoliina Kajova
Funding Manager, MuniFin
Tel. +358 50 576 7707