Helsinki wants to go greener sooner, so the city held a novel competition\r\n

Op-Ed: Helsinki wants to go greener sooner, so the city held a novel competition (via @latimesopinion)

10/16/2021 2:17:00 PM

Op-Ed: Helsinki wants to go greener sooner, so the city held a novel competition (via latimesopinion)

Helsinki's Energy Challenge solicited ideas from around the world. The winning proposals took a patient approach and did not promise magic fixes.

created by the design firm I co-founded and a large team of consultants — were announced as joint winners.All four winning proposals adopted a patient, systemic approach, and did not promise panaceas or magic wands. Our project proposes channeling the hot water used for Helsinki’s district heating system into huge thermal basins floating in the water off the harbor. These would act as a battery to store energy generated from renewable sources such as wind power — which is notoriously erratic, sometimes inaccessible and at other times available at low or even negative prices — and release it into the system when needed.

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Helsinki and its Energy Challenge hold lessons for the rest of the world. The first is that climate efforts must balance competition with collaboration. Vapaavuori’s contest allowed Helsinki to synthesize a diverse array of skills and visions.Second, we need to devise new ways to seek out innovative ideas. City governments usually work on the basis of best practices, selecting projects and policies with a proven track record. This strategy is supposed to minimize risk and the possible waste of taxpayers’ money. But the urgency of the climate crisis — not to mention the other demographic and social challenges that cities will face in the near future — demands a different, sometimes riskier approach. It was the absence of best practices that spurred a flurry of innovation in Helsinki. By preventing a large body of prior work from constraining our imaginations, we can replicate this creativity elsewhere.

Given that discretion and modesty are often seen as distinctly Finnish traits, Vapaavuori deserves credit for providing a model not only for how to set an innovative goal, but also how to form a novel process to achieve it. More cities will likely need to explore the moonshot approach taken by Helsinki as they seek to pursue bolder climate policies.

Read more: Los Angeles Times »

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