According to Heli Antila, Chief Technology Officer at Fortum, the energy system of the future, i.e. the solar economy, is based on CO2-free electricity production and energy efficiency. Fortum’s view is that we will move to the solar economy gradually, as technology and society evolve. Fortum has various solutions that are in line with sustainable development and advance progress in this direction. Antila emphasises that energy production must be observed from a perspective that spans decades.
Resource-efficient energy solutions and the minimisation carbon dioxide emissions
Moving over to the solar economy will take place in phases and in parallel with production capacity renewal and the building of new capacity. In addition to hydropower and nuclear power, other high-efficiency technologies such as gas fuels, biofuels and waste in electricity and heat cogeneration play an important role as Fortum develops its energy production. The energy system of the future comprises industrial scale units while increasingly utilising distributed small-scale production.
Already today, Fortum’s customer offering includes rooftop-installed solar panels with surplus energy bought back by Fortum; new heating and cooling solutions; and energy consumption management products. Fortum’s R&D seeks for solutions that enable energy to be produced as resource-efficiently as possible. Energy must be produced with carbon dioxide emissions that are as low as possible – or, in the best case, without any emissions at all.
What is resource efficiency? Antila sums it up: someone’s waste can be someone’s fuel. For example, multi-disciplinary algae research discovered the solution to the problem of algae farms generating too much oxygen. On the side of energy technology, this was seen as an opportunity to utilise the oxygen by burning it in power plants. Antila points out that in order to be able to use resources more efficiently, we need to network also with parties with whom we might initially have nothing in common.
Intelligent electricity meters promote sustainable development
Heli Antila shares an anecdote from the 1990s, the time when the deregulation of the energy markets began.
A device that was able to measure electricity consumption in real time was built at the Tampere University of Technology. First, the device was tested at Antila’s home. It soon became obvious that real time measurement data awakens people’s interest in energy consumption. With the help of the device, a local bakery was able to reduce its electricity bill. The researchers, too, were rewarded with marzipan cakes…
Two decades later, intelligent electricity meters are becoming a household feature. Antila believes that if information on electricity consumption is made available to consumers, they will become more interested in electricity consumption management, and on how they can impact the size of their electricity bill. Pay-per-use invoices are already common when paying for food, fuel or telephony services, but they are still a novelty in electricity.
The development of additional electricity services has introduced features that have a direct impact on the size of the invoice. Since last year, for example, Fortum has offered the ‘Fortum Fiksu’ (Fortum smart) service, a modern night-time electricity service that chooses the cheapest hour available for heating up the boiler.
Solar economy and resource-efficiency at the summer cottage
The CTO tests the vision of a solar economy at a summer cottage in Upinniemi, Kirkkonummi. The small island owned by a family has a cottage with no running water or electricity. Rainwater is used for washing up, and only drinking water is brought to the island from the continent. The refrigerator, lights and television all get energy from solar panels, so the only things that still need gas are the oven and the stove. ‘It is amazing how long you can manage with 10 litres of drinking water’, says Antila. The ‘solar fridge’ can be kept cool all through the summer, whereas the gas fridge had to be switched off when leaving the cabin.
According to Antila, there are various reasons for doing things efficiently. For some, the motivation is thrift; for others, it is nature conservation. In both cases, aiming for efficiency seems to lead to things being done in a way that is more rational.
Links to the protection of the Baltic Sea
‘At Fortum, we understand the importance of clean waterways. Investing in the protection of the Baltic Sea equals investing in the living environment of the current and future generations. We also believe that wave energy will be one of the energy production methods of the solar economy’, Heli Antila concludes, summarising her thoughts on Baltic Sea cooperation.
Antila monitors the status of the Baltic Sea also at her own summer cottage. During the dozen or so summers spent at the cottage, blue-green algae has appeared perhaps during five summers, but not to the extent that it would have been a nuisance. Waves to the beach come from the open sea of Porkkalanselkä, but the boat shore on the eastern side is calmer, with occasional blue-green algae blooms. Bladder wrack, however, has not disappeared from the waters of the shore, and this is something Antila checks every summer.Heli Antila became the Chief Technical officer of Fortum, responsible for R&D, in June 2012. Earlier, Antila has worked as a researcher in the Technical University of Tampere, and as an energy consultant at Pöyry. Heli Antila was interviewed in March 2013 by Tuula Putkinen.