Westenergy engages thousands every year

Westenergy emphasises effective flow of information, and already when the Waste-to-Energy plant was being planned, people living in the company’s operating area were informed about the company and the plant’s operation. Westenergy has remained an interesting place to visit, and in 2018 approximately 3 000 people visited the plant.

The visitor groups consist of different organisations, clubs and work groups, and a large part of the visitors are school children and students to whom visiting the plant often forms a part in an environment or energy theme period. Visitors’ background has been taken into account when planning the content of the presentation material, and during the visits, pupils and students explore the plant itself and familiarise themselves with energy concepts such as electricity and district heating. During the plant visit one learns also why it is important to sort waste: the better the waste is sorted at schools, workplaces and homes, the better fuel ends up to the WtE plant and the better the plant works.

One of the highlights of the year is the Open House event that is organised every year at the plant usually in the end of the year. Last year, there were, for instance, guided tours in the WtE plant and a display of metal items that were found in the bottom slag. Seeing the pots, kettles and different parts of bicycles and cars on display makes people think about also their own recycling habits. Last year some 300 people took part in the Open House event and every year, the event has received positive feedback.

In 2018 Westenergy participated also in the Open House events of the owner companies, the municipal waste management companies and in different local energy events and fairs. Westenergy contacts people also in social media, via company Instagram and Facebook accounts.

Westenergy supports student co-operation and research projects in circular economy

Providing work and study opportunities is an important part of Westenergy’s community activity. Every year Westenergy recruits summer workers to the operator and maintenance teams and for the office. Since 2017 Westenergy has also hired 16-18-year old students to take care of the outdoor areas of the plant in the summer. Some students have also written their thesis or diploma work for Westenergy after their summer job. In 2018, one diploma work was completed and consisted of work instructions for mechanical maintenance as 360° videos.

Westenergy provides support to development projects that are based on the circular economy concept. Last year in the SHARE project, the ecosystems of circular economy in the context of waste-to-energy field were studied. In the project, three theses were written of which one dealt with the changes in waste and procurement legislation and their impacts on Westenergy. In another thesis, an innovative way for assessing the economic impact and cost-effectiveness of utilising bottom-slag was constructed. Yet another thesis was an analytical description on closed material flows of urban food production and waste-based energy production. In a project called Hydrophonix, the utilisation possibilities of carbon dioxide in fish farming were studied.

As a part of circular economy theme, Westenergy in cooperation with Vaasanseudun Kehitys Oy and the University of Vaasa organised ReThink seminar that aimed at making companies and decision-makers consider the competitive edges circular economy could offer them. The role of municipalities in creating a viable operating environment for circular economy was also discussed in the seminar.

Westenergy aims at promoting the recognition and operation of the waste-to-energy field in different organisations such as Energiatietollisuus ry (ET) and Suomen Kiertovoima ry (KIVO). ET represents companies whose operation involves producing or selling district heating or cooling or services related to them; KIVO represents public waste management and municipal waste management companies. Westenergy is also a member in CEWEP (Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants) which is a European umbrella organisation for the owners and operators of Waste-to-Energy plants, and in ISWA (The International Solid Waste Association) which aims at promoting and developing professional waste management on an international level. Westenergy is also a member in the 0 accidents forum, a network of workplaces, that shares good practices and aims at improving occupational health and safety.

Westenergy’s CEO Olli Alhoniemi is a member in VEBIC’s (Vaasa Business Innovation Centre) consultative steering group. The steering group provides support to the University of Vaasa and VEBIC and aims at promoting cooperation and engaging the surrounding society in the operation and development of the university.