the City of Imatra has moved into the bioenergy era

How does 20 percent cheaper heating costs sound? What about the fact that this discount is made possible by domestic, low-emission bioenergy? In Imatra, Finland, a local heating company has invested in a new heating plant and cut both district heat customers’ emissions and money spent on heating.

As of just a few years ago, Imatran Lämpö Ltd produced all its district heat with natural gas imported from Russia. Today, the water in the boiler is heated with wood-based biomass. At the same time, the level of emissions generated by district heat production has diminished to one-tenth, and the heating costs of district heat customers have dropped from the highest quartile to the lowest in Finland.

The new heating plant in Imatra was delivered by KPA Unicon Ltd. The total delivery of the boiler plant cost Imatran Lämpö Ltd approximately 10 million euros, excluding construction and foundation work.

A lighter carbon footprint

Imatran Lämpö Ltd is a local heating company owned by the City of Imatra. The company produces and supplies district heat and distributes natural gas and biogas in Imatra. The district heating network covers most of the city’s large commercial buildings and about 50 percent of local households.

The new heating plant was built to replace natural gas as a heat source for district heating. It is used throughout the year to provide the base heat load, and nowadays natural gas is used only in the coldest temperatures to cover the peaks in energy consumption.

The heating plant, located in the Virasoja district of Imatra, has significantly increased the share of renewable energy in district heat production. Now, the carbon footprint of district heating customers is on average 25,000 tonnes lighter than before. The amount corresponds to approximately 2,400 Finnish citizens’ annual carbon dioxide emissions.

Thanks to the modern technology optimized for combustion, the plant does not produce significant particulate emissions, either.

“Ninety-five percent of the energy sources used for district heat production are by-products from forest industry and forestry – resources that would be difficult to use otherwise. With the new biomass-fired heating plant, Imatra got a more environmentally friendly, more cost-effective and cheaper heat production method” says Vesa-Pekka Vainikka, Managing Director of Imatran Lämpö Ltd.

Money stays local

The new plant is also significant to Imatra’s local economy: the employment effect ranges from the procurement, handling and transportation of the fuel to the use and maintenance of the heating plant. A significant portion of the money spent on producing district heat now stays in Finland, much of it remaining in the region of South Karelia, to which Imatra belongs. The new heating plant utilizes the by-streams of the densest forest industry hub in Europe, located in South Karelia.

According to Mayor of Imatra Kai Roslakka, cost moderation was one of the most important goals already during the preparation stage of the investment. Cooperation with the wood processing industry in the region was also an important driver in the planning phase.

“After a carefully prepared and well-executed investment, it can be said that all the goals that were set have actually been achieved. Investment has played a significant role in Imatra’s economic area and has contributed to the city’s vitality. “