We operate the main grid proactively and reliably. Climate change is changing both the power system and customer behaviour. As a consequence of the structural change in production and consumption, power production and consumption are increasingly dependent on the weather. Evolving technology, real-time data and situational awareness enable new ways of operating. European network codes, a clean energy package, forms of Nordic co-operation and data protection requirements guide our grid operations, which we develop together with our customers.
It is crucial for society that the power system functions reliably, and that electricity is available every second for industry and citizens. A major challenge to the reliable supply of electricity is posed by the increase in weather-dependent renewable energy production while the production of adjustable condensing power has nearly ended. Flexible condensing power has traditionally been the cornerstone of energy supply security in Finland. New solutions for balancing production and consumption must be found and have indeed been successfully introduced. Perspectives related to the security of supply and exceptional situations must also be reassessed.
Society is becoming more and more electrified, as industrial, traffic-related and heating systems are more commonly electrically powered. Vital functions are increasingly reliant on electricity. This consequently increases the significance of a disturbance-free power system. The volume of renewable production increases and the capacity generated by renewables varies according to weather conditions. The change is enormous and in particular challenges the operational capability of our power system, where generation and demand must be in balance at all times. The change highlights the need for production capacity that can effectively react to the variations of generation and demand. Demand-side flexibilities are under development, but the capacities available through demand-side measures do not yet meet the adjustment needs. Advancing technology will support the change, however.
Network codes set a 24-hour communication requirement
Due to our overall responsibility for the power system, we continuously seek to reduce the possibility of a major blackout as well as improve our capability to restore power as soon as possible. Important development projects related to this issue include the diversification of system defence tactics in the event of a major disturbance and the capability to operate and communicate without external power supply for 24 hours. These projects are progressing in extensive co-operation with other energy industry stakeholders.
Communication presents a particularly difficult challenge during an extended blackout. State Security Networks Group Finland (Suomen Erillisverkot), the national provider of safety and security critical ICT services, is significantly expanding its operations in the energy sector and will deliver a high-readiness network service solution for energy companies in 2019–2022. The high-readiness network has been developed as a service platform for critical management and leadership tasks and situational awareness, particularly in case of major disturbances in the power system. The network operates between the control rooms, linking up Fingrid, major distribution network companies and producers of electricity. The service platform also facilitates inter-service co-operation between authorities because the parties connected to the platform include rescue services, the National Emergency Supply Agency and the Defence Forces.
Changing natural phenomena challenge electricity production
According to our assessments, Finland’s supply of electricity will be sufficient to meet the demand even during the coldest spells of winter weather, if our power system and the electricity markets function normally. The demand for electricity can be met with domestic production and capacity imported from the neighbouring countries, provided that both of these sources are available.
The biggest change compared with the recent years is the increased risk of electricity shortage in the Nordics resulting from power plant closures. It is currently more difficult for Finland, a heavily imports-reliant country, to obtain imported electricity during the winter-time peak demand periods. Several Swedish power plants have been closed down, which has increased the risk of electricity shortages in the Nordics compared with previous winters. The Nordic wind power capacity has substantially increased and the availability of wind power during peak demand is a factor of key importance for the sufficient supply of electricity in the Nordic countries. The estimated need for electricity imports to the Nordics during peak demand of the winter 2019–2020 was up to 4,900 megawatts. The missing capacity is primarily procured from Central Europe.
As for Finland, however, the capacity needed during peak demand takes up nearly all of the domestic production capacity and the maximum capacity allowed by the cross-border interlinks. The risk of electricity shortage is at its highest when all of Finland experiences a long period of extremely low temperatures and the production or transmission systems of electricity simultaneously suffer from disturbances. Finland’s estimated peak demand is roughly up to 15,300 megawatts, of which one fifth must be imported. The commissioning of the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant in 2021 will significantly reduce the risk of electricity shortages in the future. Despite this, Finland will remain heavily reliant on imported electricity.