Gradyent and Helen sign a 3-year contract to continue the decarbonisation journey 

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The Finnish energy company Helen implemented Gradyent’s Digital Twin to support its strategy with scenario modelling and meet its carbon neutrality objectives. Assisted by the Digital Twin's analysis, the company closed one of its coal plants, reducing CO2 emissions by up to 40%, with the plan to switch off another facility by 2025. To follow up on a successful collaboration, Gradyent and Helen have signed a three-year contract to continue their journey towards digitalisation, optimisation, and decarbonisation of the Helsinki district heating grid and building the energy platform of the future. 

About 90% of Helsinki is covered by district heating. The energy company Helen provides energy to the city via an extensive, over 1400-km-long district heating network.  

Helen aims to achieve 100% carbon neutrality in its energy production by 2030. To this end, the company is currently transforming its network and accelerating the phase-out of coal combustion while investing in various low-carbon solutions such as heat pumps and waste heat. To optimise its operations and take concrete steps towards decarbonising its heating grid, Helen implemented the Gradyent Digital Twin. 

Timo Aaltonen, SVP of Heating and Cooling, Helen Ltd:

“Maximising the opportunities for district heating is crucial to making the energy transition work. Gradyent’s unique software will play a key role in making this happen. Gradyent's Digital Twin makes it possible to analyse concrete scenarios, optimise supply versus demand, identify bottlenecks and study the embedding of new assets."  

Digital Twin implementation: three key achievements  

The collaboration between Gradyent and Helen started in early 2022, with the collection of data about Helen's heat production and customer consumption throughout the system from c. 15,000 metering points. 

Within six months, Gradyent’s multidisciplinary team of energy specialists, engineers and data scientists developed a Digital Twin of Helen’s district heating system comprising the entire Helsinki area. The Digital Twin model has been trained on large amounts of time series data to ensure that it represents the physical network, including all sources, hydraulic components, pipes and customers, as accurately as possible.  

Sanna Lankinen, Manager, Digitalisation of Heating and Cooling, Helen Ltd:

“We love data and digitalisation at Helen and believe strongly in using a Digital Twin to future-proof our network. It gives us more accurate insights than before to understand the continuous operation of the network in various situations, for instance, after we stop using coal.”   

The development and implementation of the Digital Twin of Helen’s entire district heating system unlocked three major achievements. 

Future scenario modelling enabled coal plant phase-out 

The Gradyent Digital Twin supported Helen in decision-making around phasing out coal-powered and gas-powered plants via modelling scenarios. 

The analysis confirmed the viability of closing two coal facilities and replacing the energy supply with renewable sources such as biomass and both current and planned heat pumps. As a result, Helen closed the Hanasaari power plant in the spring of 2023, reducing CO2 emissions by up to 40%. Salmisaari A heating plant’s coal-based production was also discontinued in spring 2023. The coal-based production of electricity and heat at the Salmisaari B power plant will be discontinued, and the plant will be decommissioned in spring 2025. 

By retiring all coal facilities and increasing the use of heat pumps and biomass plants, Helen stands to reduce CO2 emissions by up to 80% compared to 1990 levels, coupled with a 10% reduction in production costs. 

User performance monitoring for deeper insights 

Gradyent’s Digital Twin also delivered new capabilities around user performance monitoring through the ingestion, validation, and analysis of data from Helen’s 15,000 smart meters. 

The company can now gain new insights for building its demand management capabilities through the user live-monitoring table and dashboard on the Gradyent platform. It allows for identifying poor-performing users, defining actions required to improve outcomes, and – as a result – increasing network efficiency. As a result, the company can meet the goal of reducing the energy required in the system and the costs for the end users.

Live network estimations 

Gradyent has made significant progress in securely connecting Helen’s production, network and user data to provide live estimations of temperatures, pressures and flow in all points of the network. This will allow feeding continuous real-time data into the Digital Twin, improving network, source control, and operational decision-making.  

Next steps 

In October 2023, Gradyent and Helen signed a three-year contract to continue their joint journey towards digitalisation, optimisation and decarbonisation of the Helsinki district heating grid and build the energy platform of the future. 

The next steps in the collaboration include finalising the live connection to calculate and inspect temperatures, flow and pressures over the entire network in real time. Another important area of focus is live monitoring of user performance, driven by the ambition to introduce demand management capabilities. 

Ultimately, Helen aims at having a network autopilot for the scheduling of heat and electricity production, operating the network and controlling the users. As a next step towards this ambition, Gradyent’s Digital Twin will also provide Helen with live temperature setpoints for main power plants to achieve the highest network efficiency and minimised heat losses, temperatures and CO2 emissions, all the while guaranteeing the security of sufficient heat supply for all Helen customers.  

Finally, the technology will open the door to real-time optimisation of production scheduling. This will increase production efficiency, including flexibility with electricity coupling and maximising energy output and profits. 

Hervé Huisman, CEO, Gradyent:

“Helsinki has one of the largest and most complex heating systems in Europe, and it is very inspiring to see how they are accelerating the phase-out of coal and investing in a range of low-carbon solutions such as heat pumps and waste heat. We are proud to be part of their journey.”  

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