A cozy city that is close to nature
Better care has to be taken of the quality and coziness of the city, especially in the areas close to the future metro stations. Espoo doesn’t need bad copies of concrete squares located around Helsinki, instead it needs beauty and nature between its buildings. The advantage of the Espoo that I love is the fact that no matter where you are you can be close to nature in a matter of minutes.
The starting point has to be an unparallelled nature and exercise experience in the Greater Helsinki as well as in comparison to Stockholm, Copenhagen and Berlin, which means small acts as well as big ones. It has to be possible to dip into an ice hole straight from the Waterfront Walkway without coming across a swimming ban caused by sewage overflooding during rainstorms. As the chairperson of the City Council, I have tried to speed up the construction of compound pipelines that would put an end to sewage leaking into the sea, which should happen as a result of the decisions that have now been made.
We need Espoo to be cozy. A city in which housing shortage does not raise prices sky-high, but that will not be over-built. In addition, the areas located around the metro stations have to be designed to be inviting, which means saying no to big concrete squares and yes to an abundance of plants, flowers, trees, and grass as well as neighborhood cafes and exercise areas.
Without the West Metro the connection between Helsinki and the growing centers located in South Espoo would have become congested before long. Nevertheless, one has to have patience even when it comes to laying rails as there is no reason or need to build rail lines and the infrastructure required everywhere because bus traffic will become electric by the end of the decade.
I am worried that there is an undue rush to implement zoning plans so that debts accumulated by the metro system can be paid. But quality cannot be compromised because one is in a rush. If the repayment of the loan is done three years later than originally planned, it doesn’t mean anything when planning the urban landscape for the next fifty years.
The best schools in the world
Espoo has the best schools in the world and it has to stay that way in the future as well. In comprehensive schools, there are six hours of elective subjects based on the pupil’s own choice, so called “Espoo hours”, which exceed the common distribution of lesson hours outlined in the Basic Education Act. In both comprehensive schools and in general upper secondary education, we invest over a thousand Euros more per student each year than for example Turku or Vantaa. Four years ago it seemed like every other school and day care centre suddenly had mould problems. Together we invested nearly a billion Euros more to “School Renovation” -programme and the situation is much improved now.
Investing in schools is a value judgement, not an accident. Investing in children, the youth, and in learning is and will continue to be the most important thing to me. At the same time, only a dishonest person wouldn’t take care of the over a hundred million Euro structural deficit that is taking root in the annual expenditure, a fact that remains unchanged despite last year’s corona aids. That is why we have to be careful with extra spending and keep the basics in top condition.
A path to employment and dreams
Sharing is beautiful, but to do something worth sharing is the basis of all good. That is why my heart is on the right. In Espoo as well, the economic equilibrium has to be sought first and foremost by making Espoo yet a better place for jobs and successful businesses.
Tax increases are a way to waste away. Even though the listed municipal tax rate of Espoo is lower than in most municipalities, in practice Espoo grabs a larger percentage from the income of its residents than most. The municipal tax deduction particularly eases the taxation of low-income residents (which is how it should be so that working is always worthwhile) and its significance is lower in Espoo.
Too little attention has been given to the major change in the responsibilities of the cities. As of this year, the organization of employment services is being transferred largely from the state to the cities, which has to be taken seriously in Espoo. We have to show that we can adopt the best and most effective measures to empower the marginalized unemployed youths, to connect the vocational education and the employment services, and, first and foremost, to make the employment services a seamless part of our business services as well.
A trailblazer in clean technology
Kokoomus, the National Coalition Party, is the political party of freedom and responsibility. It is clear to us that we cannot live at the expense of our children – be it a question of the increasing national debt, biodiversity loss, or taking a risk when it comes to the climate. Instead of scare tactics, climate discussions require common-sense solutions and the hope that follows.
Finland’s greenhouse gas emissions amount to 0.1 percent of the global emissions, which means that they don’t make that much of a difference on a global scale. The real significance of the emission reductions made by Espoo comes from multiplying the solutions created and tested here around the world. If we can learn how to heat the Greater Helsinki inexpensively mostly without burning fossil fuels, we can export those solutions to metropolises like Toronto and Beijing next.
Heating is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Finland. It generates more than twice the amount of emissions than passenger car traffic. The significance of heating as a source of greenhouse gas emissions is even greater in the carbon footprint of Espoo as it covers about 40 percent of the estimated emissions. It is a bit absurd that even though the City Council has spent countless hours debating whether or not local schools and lunch restaurants for city employees should offer vegetarian alternatives, the Council rarely discusses the shutdown of Suomenoja’s coal-fired power plant even though it is one of the biggest in the country.
The climate debate focuses too much on the debate over passenger car traffic, when, in reality, reducing passenger car traffic is in no way a realistic scenario here in Finland. A sensible way to save passenger car traffic from its emissions is to bring environmentally friendly cars that are powered by alternative fuels or advanced vehicle technologies within reach of all Finnish people within a reasonable timeframe.
Altering the heating to be nearly emission-free is the next great leap that is realistically achievable without lifestyle changes or permanent expenses. Over two thirds of the coal used in Finland is being burnt in district heating plants located in the Greater Helsinki area.
During the previous parliamentary session a statutory act banning the large-scale use of coal for energy generation was passed by our party’s initiative. The act will enter into force in 2029. So coal will go out of use in Suomenoja as well. However, the next few years will determine to what extent coal will be replaced by either the burning of forest chips or by smarter solutions that are not based on burning non-renewable sources. Our key mission is to avoid the excessive use of biomass. Pulpwood and tree stumps shouldn’t be burned.
The key is the swift advancement of heat pump technology, which has made it possible to efficiently utilize heat from under the frozen ground and from the sea to the fullest extent.
The first seven kilometers deep pair of geothermal heat wells in Northern Europe will soon be completed in Otaniemi. Upon completion, its heat output alone will cover a tenth of the heat that Espoo requires. During the last few years, city block specific geothermal heat pumps utilizing drilled heat wells ranging from a couple hundred meters to a couple kilometers in depth have developed the fastest. In addition, heat pumps can efficiently capture lost heat from buildings, industries, data centers, and waste water and store heat for future use. New kinds of small nuclear power plants designed for heat production might have a sensible place in the mix as well.
The interesting question is, to what extent do we even lean on district heat in the 2030s or does local geothermal heat become a superior choice widely used in apartment buildings as well. In Tapiola’s Hakalehto a housing company comprising five old apartment buildings switched from district heating to forty-three geothermal heat pumps a year ago to lower the residents’ heating costs. In addition, ten or so apartment buildings around Nittykumpu’s old mall have already done the same.
I don’t take a stand for or against the future of district heat. Instead, I want the residents and companies to genuinely have the opportunity to choose the most inexpensive emission-free solution. Among other things, geothermal heat projects are thwarted by a ban on diagonal boring underground beneath city-owned land and under roads. Diagonal boring should always be allowed when it in reality doesn’t limit the use of the lot above and when it doesn’t jeopardize underground municipal engineering.
In addition, many housing cooperatives in Espoo, as in other places, have difficulties in obtaining a loan from the bank, even though people will live in these cooperatives for decades to come, and shifting from one heat source to another would have plenty of time to pay for itself. This can be seen as a failure of the financial market, which could be alleviated by a state climate fund that would grant cooperatives and owners of private oil-heated properties loan guarantees for renovations that would make the properties more climate-friendly.
The easiest thing would be to first step to the future in the new parts of the city that are being built nearly from scratch. At present, construction is beginning on a large area between Suomenoja and Kaitaa, and the construction of Kera’s residential area along the railroad line is to follow. In addition, it would seem that during the next few years some changes have to be made in Northern Espoo as well, especially the area of Hista on the southside of Nuuksio has to be zoned and extensions have to be made on Niipperi and Kalajärvi. These new areas have a million dollar chance to build a new kind of heating solution that would be based on minimizing the need for power plants that generate heat by burning fossil fuels from the start. In other words, a regional heating-system that is arranged in a way that makes it easy for individual properties to sell the excess heat that they have generated or stored themselves with great thermal efficiency.
Too often, it is the fact that it is easiest for everyone, including the planner, the developer and the technical services of the city, to do as has been done before that stands in the way of the cleanest and most beneficial solution. We have to get past that. We have to show them what we are capable of. We need enthusiasm and a pinch of courage to keep up with the technical developments.