Carbon-neutral district heat from the waste heat of data centres: homes in Helsinki to be heated by Telia’s data centre

Telia and the energy company Helen have agreed on the utilisation of heat produced in a data centre. According to the plans, waste heat collected from Telia’s modern data centre in Pitäjänmäki will be transmitted into the district heating network for distribution to homes and properties in Helsinki as from June 2022. In future, the data centre can provide heat for the homes of more than 20,000 Helsinki residents.

As the use of data increases, the consumption of electricity in data centres also grows. At the same time, the data centres also produce a significant amount of heat. Telia and the energy company Helen plan to connect Telia’s data centre in Pitäjänmäki to the district heating network and use the heat collected from the data centre for heating homes in Helsinki. Using a heat pump, the data centre can produce at least 1.3 times the heat that it consumes as electricity.

“It is great to plan a new, cleaner energy future together with Telia. Data centres are an excellent local source of heat and we want, and actively seek, more of these sources. We are already offering renewable heat for our customers, and Helen’s district heat will be fully carbon neutral by 2035 at the latest,” smiles Helen’s director Anu-Elina Hintsa.

The district heating system is undergoing a transition from centralised heat production towards a distributed system where customers can act as consumers and producers. The existing district heating network is an excellent platform for new carbon-neutral solutions. Data centres are excellent sources of heat as they produce heat evenly throughout the year.

“The central location of the data centre is ideal for delivering waste heat into the district heating network for the needs of growing Helsinki. The carbon-neutral district heat produced by the data centre in Helsinki can be used for heating up to 20,000 dwellings, replacing the use of fossil fuels as an energy source. This also supports Telia’s ambitious environmental targets. We are striving for zero emissions by 2030 throughout our value chain, from subcontractors to customers. We also aim to reduce our waste to zero with circular economy,” says Eija Pitkänen, Head of Sustainability, Telia Finland.

Reform of electricity taxation of heat pumps and data centres is key for project implementation

Achieving the climate targets requires a transition to carbon-neutral energy, away from combustion-based energy solutions. By using waste heat produced in data centres, the achievement of the climate targets can be accelerated significantly. A key step in this is the reduction of electricity tax on heat pumps to a lower tax class.

“The change in the electricity tax class of heat pumps and data centres is important in the implementation of carbon-neutral projects. Helen has a number of projects based on heat pumps under review, and the Pitäjänmäki project is among those to be implemented after the change of electricity tax class for heat pumps progresses,” says Helen’s Director Anu-Elina Hintsa.

Telia and Helen are committed to the Climate Partners network of the City of Helsinki. The target of the network is to strengthen cooperation in the mitigation of climate change and support the carbon neutrality targets of the City of Helsinki.

Facts:

  • Telia Helsinki Data Centre in Pitäjänmäki is one of the largest open data centres in the Nordic countries.
  • Opened in June 2018, the data centre has been granted, e.g. the Gold-level LEED environmental certificate. The Gold-level LEED classification was contributed to by the environmental impacts of the building as a whole, especially energy efficiency and water conservation. For example, rainwater is collected and used in the data centre for rinsing.
  • The data centre uses carbon-neutral electricity: Hydropower and wind power.
  • Clean recycled heat will be obtained from the data centre to the district heating network as planned as from June 2022.
  • Helen’s district heat will be fully carbon neutral by 2035

Reducing the electricity tax of heat pumps and data centres to a lower tax class promotes future carbon-neutrality projects. The state budget for 2020 stated that the entry in the Government Programme concerning the transfer of heat pumps producing heat into the district heating network and data centres to electricity tax class II will be implemented as soon as possible so that the changes can enter into force during 2021.