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Electricity consumption approaches record as cold snap hits southern Finland

With wind power production down from this week’s peak, Finland relies on energy imports as the mercury plunges.

Höyryä ja voimalinjoja
Temperatures could drop to -20 degrees Celsius or colder throughout mainland Finland. Image: Esko Jämsä / AOP

Electricity consumption was expected to reach near-record levels on Thursday night and Friday morning as heavily-populated southern Finland headed into the deep freeze.

Last winter was mild, with now significant peaks in electricity consumption, and the same was mainly true of several preceding winters. On Thursday transmission system operator Fingrid predicted sharp demand for electricity consumption through Friday at least.

During extremely cold weather, consumption sometimes exceeds 15,000 megawatts per hour, but now such a high level is expected this time, according to Reima Päivinen, Fingrid’s Senior Vice President for power system operations.

“The previous electricity consumption record was set in 2016, when it hit about 15,100 megawatts,” he told Yle.

Fingrid predicted that electricity consumption would reach about 14,000 late Thursday and around 14,200 megawatts on Friday.

Wind power plays bigger role – but can be fickle

As Finland has phased out coal-fired power plants in recent years, it is increasingly reliant on imported electricity to cover such surges – if fluctuating wind power is not available at the right moment.

On average wind turbines produce more power during the winter, but output naturally depends on how breezy it is.

“If wind power is not available, Finland is highly dependent on imports. If consumption rises to around 15,000 megawatts, we have to import about 20-25 percent of our electricity from neighbouring countries: Sweden, Estonia and Russia,” Päivinen explained. Finland and Sweden lead the EU in the share of energy obtained from renewable sources.

During the blizzard that hit southern and western Finland earlier this week, wind turbines produced a record output of more than 2000 megawatts per hour, according to Jari Kostama, Director of Energy Production at the trade association Finnish Energy. The storm also knocked out power to tens of thousands of households.

On Friday, though, wind power production is forecast to be less than one tenth of this week’s peak level.

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