The first annual Vuoden energianerokas (Energy Genius of the Year) awards presented – our expert explains what made the prize-winning energy efficiency actions ingenious

WWF was involved in selecting the energy efficiency actions that were recognised a week ago with the Vuoden Energianerokas 2019 (Energy Genius of the Year 2019) award. Raising awareness of energy efficiency actions is also the target of the LIFE EconomisE project, in which WWF is also involved.

The Vuoden Energianerokas 2019 (Energy Genious of the Year 2019) awards, given by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland, the Energy Authority and the state-owned sustainable development company Motiva, were presented for the first time this year.

WWF was included in the jury that awarded the best energy efficiency actions from a group of more than 40 participants. The award was presented to a new energy recycling system by Kesko and Granlund Oy, an energy skills learning concept by schools from Lapua, an outdoor public swimming pool energy solution by the City of Tampere and Tampereen Sähkölaitos, utilisation of flash steam by the Fermion facility, part of the Orion Group, and the idling walks and monitoring by the family-owned company MSK Plast.

“One of the key messages of the competition is that seemingly simple actions can have very significant effects when they are scaled up. It is very important to raise awareness of the best pilot projects and to re-design them on a larger scale to create major savings,” says Elisabeth Anetjärvi, Energy Efficiency Expert in the LIFE EconomisE project.

“On the other hand, some good ideas or new concepts might seem arduous at first, but are very rewarding in the end. For example, the novel energy recycling concept developed by Kesko and Granlund Oy required a lot of close and long-term collaboration between refrigeration engineers, HVAC and electricity engineers, energy engineers, contractors and Kesko, but now, when the process is ready to be used, it is easy to repeat in other commercial properties all around Finland,” says Anetjärvi.

Energy recycling in grocery stores

One of the recognised concepts was the energy recycling system developed by Kesko and Granlund that improves the energy efficiency of refrigeration systems in grocery stores. The solution brings together the recovery systems of refrigeration systems, heat pumps and energy recycling in order to use the heat of condensation generated as a byproduct of refrigeration to heat the property.

“The solution is about using waste heat. Innovative solutions such as this are very welcome as Finland has an abundance of unused waste heat,” says Anetjärvi.

Using waste heat saves energy and money: the annual costs of heating a building can decrease by up to 85–95 per cent and the shopkeeper’s electricity bill by 10–15 per cent.

“The best part is that the system can be scaled for commercial properties all around Finland and, according to plans, it will be installed in more than 200 commercial properties in the near future. The consumption of energy for heating purposes is so low after the energy refurbishment that many commercial property owners can even consider disconnecting their properties from the district heating network. In the future, the demand for additional heating in these sites will be met with renewable sources of energy.”

Energy skills for schoolchildren

Among those recognised was a project carried out by four schools from Lapua, where children are coached to meet future energy challenges in an innovative and inspiring way. The Future Energy Skills and Gamification project involves more than 200 schoolchildren.

The idea of the project is to perform energy-efficient actions suitable for the child’s developmental stage according to the curriculum. Energy skills are taught through, for example, games, role plays, programming and field trips. A mobile energy conservation game developed and written by the children is used in teaching, for instance.

“One of my favourites is the ingenious game called Energy Spies, where children try to spy on unnecessary energy consumption at home and at school—for example, if the lights are on during breaks, if the temperature inside is too high or if the television is on even if no one is watching it,” says Anetjärvi.

“The project is really wonderful and insightful as it encourages children to pay attention to environmental issues and energy consumption. Games are also really easy to scale up or down for different schools all around Finland. If these activities were incorporated into the official curriculum, the effects could be enormous.”

Heating swimming pools and factories with waste heat

Two different examples of using waste heat were also among the recognised energy efficiency actions.

The outdoor public swimming pool in Kaleva, Tampere, has a novel heating and cooling solution in which the waste heat from the district cooling network is used to heat the swimming pools and the water cooled in the heating of waters is used in the district cooling network.

“The cool water in the cooling network is used to cool properties in the Tampere city centre and the water heated in the properties is used at the swimming pools. I think it is great that the city and the electricity company are working together in such a way! The project is a fine example of energy recycling that can be easily scaled up or down for other cities as well,” says Anetjärvi.

Fermion Oy, a part of the Orion Group, has a facility in Oulu where the flash steams generated as a byproduct of the processes in the facility are used to heat the property and its hot water. Flash steam can be re-used wholly with a heat exchanger, saving more than 415 MWh every year. According to cost estimates, the system will pay for itself in a little more than three years.

“The energy savings created by using surplus heat are massive and the time for the system to pay for itself is short. This is also an excellent example of gaining major benefits with relatively simple technology when the savings are significant and constant,” says Anetjärvi.

“However, many factories generate so much surplus heat that they cannot use it all by themselves. In such cases, it is worth investigating whether the surplus heat can be used outside the factory or if it can be sold to the local energy company.”

An end to unnecessary energy consumption

The fifth energy efficiency action recognised was the new tradition established by the family-owned company MSK Plast. The purpose of the annual walk is to study whether their factory consumes energy unnecessarily outside production hours. On the first tour, also called idling walks, 60 observations of unnecessary energy consumption were made. It was easy to make these observations in a silent factory.

“Most of the observations made were about computers or lights left on. Paying attention to these needless energy hogs is an easy and inexpensive way to create savings. Industry usually has high demands for quick returns on investments, so it is easy to imagine that there is demand for such a simple way of generating savings practically for free,” says Anetjärvi.

The MSK Plast factory also monitors electricity and heat consumption periodically with a remote monitoring system.

Are you aware of an energy efficiency action that needs to be recognised?

Report it on the Energy Leap website!

Energy Leap is an online service that encourages all Finns – both communities and individuals – to adopt resource-saving, cleaner and more energy-efficient ways of heating, moving and producing goods and services.

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Report it on the Energy Leap website!

Energy Leap is an online service that encourages all Finns – both communities and individuals – to adopt resource-saving, cleaner and more energy-efficient ways of heating, moving and producing goods and services.

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