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Households advised to prepare for cuts in Russian gas supplies

Utilities in southeastern Finland are urging customers to be calm, but to be prepared if Russia cuts off supplies.

A sign in Finnish marking a gas pipeline. Higher gas prices this past winter already had many gas users turning to alternative ways to heat homes. Image: Petteri Bülow / Yle

While reassuring fossil gas users, both household and businesses, that their needs are being met for now, energy companies in southeastern parts of the country are urging customers to look at alternative means to heat their homes, should Russia turn off the tap.

Teemu Heinänen, Energy Business Director at Hamina Energy, says that extraordinary measures are not required, though.

For households heated by gas, in practice this means, for example, checking that any wood-fired stoves or other heating equipment are in good working order. High gas prices this past winter already taught many users the wisdom of having alternative heating sources available.

"The price of natural gas rose exceptionally sharply last winter, so many natural gas customers utilised the electric heating systems of their natural gas boiler or heated their homes with fireplaces," explains Arto Nikkanen, CEO of Lappeenranta Energia.

However, gas heating clients are classed as protected customers, meaning that utilities have a special obligation to secure supplies.

"Every effort is be made to secure the supply of natural gas for them for as long as possible," says Heinänen.

Marko Riipinen, CEO of KSS Lämpö, which operates mainly in the Kouvola area, says the same. His company distributes gas for heating to almost 1,000 homes, while Hamina Energy supplies a few hundred.

Gas heating is relatively marginal in the region. According to Statistics Finland, in 2020 district heating, wood and electricity accounted for 82 percent of heating in Finland. The next most common source was heat pumps, which also run on electricity.

Preparing for next winter

Should the availability of gas be significantly disrupted, Gasgrid Finland, which manages the network, would order utilities to restrict their gas supplies. However, natural gas is used for heating would be given priority.

Finland's Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä (Cen) said in a Yle TV discussion last week that if Russia closes down gas deliveries at the end of May, it would have a stronger impact on Finland's industrial sector than an end to Russia oil imports.

The entire Finnish energy sector is already preparing for next winter. A suspension of gas supplies from Russia is likely to affect the prices of other fuels and of electricity.

"Unfortunately, we all need to be prepared for this, including companies. Energy efficiency and energy savings will be further emphasized in the future," says Lappeenranta Energia's Nikkanen.

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