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Russia cuts off electricity to Finland; industry group sees Nato link

While Russia has only supplied a small fraction of electricity used in Finland lately, the shutoff will raise prices here.

Russian electricity has accounted for a tenth of Finland's consumption. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

Russian state firm RAO Nordic cut off all exports of electricity to Finland early Saturday.

There is no longer any Russian electricity coming to Finland, as Finnish majority-state-owned utility Fortum had already suspended electricity imports via a transmission line to Imatra on the eastern border.

State transmission system operator Fingrid had also limited remaining Russian exports in late April, so that they only accounted for about 10 percent of Finland's consumption.

Finland need not worry about an electricity shortage, according to Reima Päivinen, Senior Vice President of Fingrid. However, he said that the Russia cut-off will push up the price of electricity, which has already risen significantly this year.

RAO Nordic is the Finnish subsidiary of the state-owned utility Inter RAO. It said on Friday evening that it would suspend the export of electricity to Finland at 1 am Saturday.

RAO Nordic said it has had difficulty receiving payments for the electricity it sells due to sanctions.

"Since the 6th of May funds have not yet been credited to our bank account. This situation is exceptional and happened for the first time in over 20 years of our trading history," the company said in a statement. "We hope that the situation will get improved [sic] soon and the electricity trade with Russia could resume," it added.

Asked by the news agency Reuters whether payments had been required to be made in roubles, a spokesperson for the European power exchange Nord Pool said: "We have never had settlements in roubles, only in euros, Norwegian crowns, Swedish crowns and Danish crowns, in line with our standard procedures."

"Finland doing quite well without Russian electricity"

Since late April, Russian electricity has only accounted for a tenth of Finland's total consumption.

"Of course, it's the spring-summer season so consumption has decreased from the winter peak in consumption," Fingrid's Päivinen told Yle.

"Finland is doing quite well without Russian electricity. We'll replace it with electricity from domestic production or imports, mainly from Sweden and the Baltic countries," he said.

He said it came as a surprise that RAO Nordic decided to halt imports so soon, although the cut-off had been anticipated.

"Questionable timing"

Jukka Leskelä, Managing Director of the Finnish Energy industry association, said that the timing of RAO Nordic's decision was questionable.

RAO's statement came a day after President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) said that they supported Finland's Nato membership, a response to Russia's attack on Ukraine.

"Such a sudden announcement raises the question of whether the reason given by RAO Nordic is genuine," Leskelä said, adding that he believes the Russian electricity cut-off is linked to Finland's pending application for Nato membership.

More wind and nuclear coming online

The wholesale price of electricity is likely to increase due to higher demand on the Nordic electricity market.

"This means that the price of electricity in Finland will be more expensive [on Saturday] than in Sweden, for example," said Leskelä.

However, as most consumers buy their electricity on contracts or at fixed prices, the shutoff of Russian electricity will not have an immediate impact on the average consumer, said Fingrid's Päivinen.

"Of course, when the wholesale price rises, it is also passed on to consumer prices over time," he noted.

On 22 April, Fingrid reduced the maximum capacity of Russian imported electricity from 1,300 MW to 900 MW, citing "the changing international situation".

At the time, Päivinen said that the move was related to preparing for possible hybrid measures by Russia during the Nato application process, which is likely to take several months.

"Finnish authorities have stated that there may be external interference with the infrastructure in connection with the Nato debate," Päivinen said.

Finland's self-sufficiency in electricity production is growing due to an increase in domestic wind power production and the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear reactor, which is expected to be fully operational in September. In early May, plans for a new Russian-Finnish nuclear plant were cancelled.

"This year alone, an additional 2000 megawatts of new wind power is expected to come online. Finland is expected to become self-sufficient in electrical energy in 2023," Fingrid said on Friday.