Microsoft and Fortum to collaborate in Espoo – Microsoft’s planned data centre region in Espoo will produce zero-emission district heating for Fortum’s customers in the Helsinki metropolitan area

Published: 17.3.2022 11.07Updated: 25.3.2022 8.20

“The new data centre region will further strengthen Espoo’s position as an innovative pioneer in sustainable development. The use of clean waste heat as district heating will significantly help us towards becoming carbon-neutral by 2030,” says Mayor Jukka Mäkelä.

Microsoft and Fortum have today announced their globally unique cooperation project in which Microsoft will build a new data centre in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and Fortum will build a connected large-scale waste heat unit for the district heat network. The investment is a reaction to the continuously increasing demand for cloud computing in Finland. The new data centre area will provide Finnish public sector organisations, big and small companies, and private persons with reliable, scalable and secure cloud services, and the opportunity to store data in Finland and to utilise cloud services with very low response time.

Fortum will recycle the waste heat created by the cooling of the data centre’s servers into district heat in Espoo, Kauniainen and Kirkkonummi. This is the world’s largest recovery project for data centre waste heat and presumably one of the largest individual ICT investments in Finnish history. The electricity used by the coming data centres will be emission-free. Upon completion, data centres can be used to achieve a permanent, annual carbon dioxide emissions decrease of 400,000 tonnes.

The project is also unique because Fortum has from the very beginning planned the project and the data centres’ locations so that the waste heat created by them can be recycled directly into the district heat network. Preparations for the project have been made for several years in cooperation with cities, municipalities, experts and other partners. The emission-less waste heat produced by the data centres will cover about 40 per cent of the heat demand of the 250,000 district heat users in Espoo, Kauniainen and Kirkkonummi.

At the point of contact between digitalisation and energy transition

“Everyone wins in the decision to invest in the data centre that will also produce heat for our cities and homes. It will accelerate Finland’s digital growth while cleansing our energy system at the same time. I hope that this cooperation acts as an example for other countries and cities looking for ways to combine the transition into climate neutrality with digital competitiveness,” says Prime Minister Sanna Marin.

“Finland is a leading country in digitalisation and innovation where world-class companies and progressive public sector actively promote the digital transition of the society and companies,” says Cindy Rose, President of Microsoft Western Europe. “We are very proud of the fact that our data centre area will support Finland’s digitalisation while also heating Finnish homes and companies and helping municipalities in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area achieve their emissions goals.”

“Data centres enable digitalisation and, through that, create a lot of well-being in the world. They also provide a largely unutilised and emission-free heat source that can, in the right conditions, be used very energy-efficiently. Four years ago, our colleagues began to search for a data centre operator that would be ready to implement climate-friendly solutions on an unprecedented scale with us in the area of Espoo, Kirkkonummi and Kauniainen. I am glad that the search is now over,” says Markus Rauramo, Fortum CEO.

Microsoft has over 45,000 commercial customers and 2,000 partner companies in Finland. Almost all Finnish people use Microsoft services. Several customers, such as Nokia, Elisa, Fortum, S-Pankki, Tietoevry, HUS, Vero and Valtori have expressed an interest in the new data centre area.

Fingrid is responsible for the power-supply-related investments required by the project. “Fingrid is Finland’s transmission system operator that is responsible for providing secure power transmission. In Finland, the security of transmission is one of the best in the world. We are proud of being involved in creating opportunities for a huge industrial project like this. In this demanding project we have found our customer a solution with which the power supply for the data centre is guaranteed,” says Jukka Ruusunen, Fingrid CEO.

The data centre area announced today will play a central role in accelerating Finland’s digital transition. According to an estimate by the research institute IDC, Microsoft, its eco system and cloud customers, could in the next four years produce over EUR 17.2 billion of new cumulative turnover, and over 11,000 jobs could be created for IT professionals in Finland.

“With the data centre area, companies, public sector, research organisations and higher education institutions could utilise cloud computing increasingly efficiently in their innovation operations, digitalisation projects and growing of data-based business operations,” says Pekka Horo, Country General Manager of Microsoft Finland. “For the society and our entire planet, it is important that the continuously increasing demand for cloud services is responded to with solutions that are as efficient as possible in regards to the climate and consumption of energy.”

The new data centre area will become part of Microsoft’s global cloud infrastructure that comprises over 60 data centre areas, over 200 data centres and over 280,000 kilometres of fibre-optic cable. Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure serves over one billion customers in 140 countries.

“The cooperation project announced today is located at the point of contact of two mega trends, digitalisation and energy transition,” Cindy Rose states. “Microsoft and Fortum provide the project with world-class competence in cloud computing and energy solutions. Our joint project will revolutionise the way the entire sector thinks and how data centres are designed.”

Data centre area to create extensive climate benefits

By recycling waste heat, Fortum can provide district-heat area households, services and companies with clean, inexpensive and reliable heating. It will enable carbon-neutral production of district heat by the end of the 2020s. Once the recovery has begun, a total of about 60 per cent of the area’s heating will be produced with environmentally friendly waste heat, 40 per cent of which comes from the new data centre and the rest from sources such as purified waste water.

“Developing solutions combatting climate change with partners is a strategic priority for Fortum. This project is an important step towards a carbon-neutral Finland and we at Fortum are proud that we get to take that step with Microsoft,” says Fortum CEO Markus Rauramo.

All the electricity used by the data centre area and, therefore, all the waste heat created will be emission-free. The recycling of waste heat will replace coal and decrease the use of gas in the production of district heat. This will lower the carbon dioxide emissions of district heat by about 400,000 tonnes a year. As the impact of the continuously increasing competition in emission trading will cease, the project will also protect the competitiveness of district heat and help keep prices stable.

“Finland wants to attract investments and continue working for pragmatic regulation and high level of competence. Therefore, staying up to date requires action. Achieving Finland’s ambitious climate goals requires energy-efficient solutions that lower the emissions of heating quickly and on a large scale. This can be introduced in cities that have a district heat network. Investments in emission-free domestic energy production and recycling of clean heat will also improve the domesticity rate of energy,” says Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä.

The new data centre area is a unique opportunity for the region’s cities and municipalities. It will create not only education, further training and job opportunities, but it will also contribute significantly to the achievement of the emissions reduction objectives of Espoo, Kirkkonummi and Kauniainen. Recycling the data centre area’s waste heat into district heat will help reduce the carbon footprint of the heating users on a large scale and at a stable price.

“The new data centre area will enhance further Espoo’s position as an innovative pioneer of sustainable development. Abroad, data centre investments are a subject of tough competition, but the excellent cooperation and investment environment resulted in the creation of a solution that will benefit all, from the national level to local residents. The use of clean waste heat as district heat will help us significantly in our efforts to achieve a carbon-neutral Espoo by 2030. We are very happy about Fortum and Microsoft’s cooperation and welcome it,” says Jukka Mäkelä, Mayor of Espoo.

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