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Fingrid: Rolling power cuts would be very last option

Finland managed to reduce its electricity usage by seven percent, year-on-year in September, but will still need to save more this winter, according to the country's grid operator.

High voltage power lines in Helsinki's Viikki neighbourhood. Image: Toni Määttä / Yle

Finland's energy requirements during colder months will hinge on issues including domestic electricity production levels, the availability of energy imports from Sweden as well as how mild or bone-chilling the winter turns out to be.

Finland's grid operator, Fingrid, reiterated on Monday that anticipated energy shortages could lead to periodic rolling blackouts this winter.

The good news is that the country has already made some progress in saving electricity, according to Tuomas Rauhala, Fingrid's SVP, Power System Operations.

Compared to last year, electricity consumption in September declined by around seven percent.

"This is a very good start," he said, noting that saving electricity and using it at the right time of day can be very crucial in the wintertime on days when demand for electricity is high.

"If we can save 10 percent of electricity at peak consumption times, it almost corresponds to the energy output of Olkiluoto 3 [Finland's newest nuclear power plant]," he explained.

Fingrid's model for the country's heaviest electricity demand is based on a scenario of a very cold winter's day with no wind to keep wind turbines generating power.

Heavy load scenario

On such a day, Finland's electricity needs are around 14,400 MW, 12,900 MW of which could be sourced domestically without the help of wind power, according to the grid operator.

Finland's supply of electricity should be sufficient, if Olkiluoto 3 and the rest of domestically-sourced energy are working, and there are no issues with importing electricity from Sweden, according to Fingrid.

The grid operator noted that saving electricity can be very helpful in preventing possible shortfalls.

In order to avoid major, nationwide power outages, cuts would be targeted in different areas of the country. In such a scenario, Fingrid would issue orders to local grid companies about how much electricity can be used by end customers. Then local suppliers would set limits for their customers.

Heikki Paananen, the head of operations at the Tampere-based local electricity distribution firm Elinia, said that rolling power cuts would last around two hours.

He added that local distributors would try to avoid, for example, cutting off power to places like hospitals.

"But I emphasise that if the electricity shortage situation is very severe, it is likely that electricity will be cut off," he said.

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