Promoting energy efficiency investments in a residential area in Finland by engaging residents collectively

The aim of the project was to promote energy efficiency in existing houses.  It was run by Enespa Ltd, Finland's smallest and oldest energy service company (ESCO). Enespa wanted to explore the possibilities to develop a full service package for residential energy efficiency investments. The focus was on existing detached houses and heating systems upgrades. In particular, the pilot explored the possibilities to develop a shared heating infrastructure for multiple houses.

Particular attention was devoted to finding an amenable context, and hence the project was located in a rural municipality that has made a commitment to become carbon-neutral. Here, an existing residential area was selected of about 100 houses, mainly with oil and electric heating. Residents were supported by home audits, meetings, technical support, and support for organising funding for the investments. Meetings were organized with the residents and key stakeholders such as municipality representatives, the bank, equipment suppliers and service providers.

Few commercial initiatives preceded Enespa’s attempt to offer this type of hands-on services for private households. The Micro-ESCO initiative focused on developing a model for the promotion of energy saving and CO2 emissions reduction in detached houses. A technical analysis was conducted of options for improving energy efficiency and their costs, payback times and internal rates of return. On this basis, plans were developed for a common heating system based on ground-source heat wells and a common heat pump. This matched Enespa’s aim to develop larger single investments and a particular logic of neighborhood-scale solutions as opposed to single house solutions.
In the end, it turned out that a common heating system was too ambitious for this area, and more individual solutions were selected. Residents in the area were supported in the joint procurement of ground source heating systems. However, the idea of a common heating system was kept on the agenda in the municipality, now for areas that have a (municipally-owned) school, which can serve as the centre for the heating system. The project developed a manual for such joint initiatives on the basis of the experiences gained in the Micro-ESCOs project.