Elering: Generation can cover peak consumption even in harsh winter

Power lines.
Power lines. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

According to a report on the security of energy supplies in the Baltic and Nordic countries, the balance of electricity generation in the region is positive, and would remain so even in the event of a cold winter. However, as the difference between peak production and peak consumption levels is very small, there are still risks involved.

Nordic countries and those in the Baltic Sea region are facing the prospect of some of the harshest winters in recent history. However, despite this, system operators foresee a positive energy balance in the region during both mild and cold winters. At the same time, as the difference between peak hour generation and consumption levels remains small, between three and eight percent, the picture could be subject to change if certain risks materialize.

The fact that the positive balance is not evenly distributed between countries could also be a problem, according to an analysis of the security of the region's supplies.

While system operators are not expecting consumption to have to be curtailed in winter, it is not completely out of the question. Therefore, it its necessary to ensure the public is made aware of the possibility.

While no electricity shortages are forecast this winter, prices will remain high due to both fuel shortages and uncertain energy markets, the report says. Consumers are, therefore, urged to carefully evaluate and monitor their electricity consumption.

According to the analysis, Nordic and Baltic electricity consumption during a regular winter, understood as the six-month period between October and April, is around 620 terawatt-hours (TWh). For a cold winter, that figure increases to approximately 646 TWh. Between 70 and 75 percent of this will come from generators that are not expected to face problems with related to the availability of fuel needed for production. The remaining 25 to 30 percent is dependent on coal, lignite and gas, which could all be subject to supply constraints.

Hydro-energy has the potential to produce around 169 TWh, with wind able to generate a further 156 TWh. In severe winters, 48TWh of gas will be needed in order to produce at least 23 TWh of additional electricity. As of October 11, the Baltic and Nordic countries had gas supplies totaling 291 TWh in storage.

The generators which coast the most to operate are those which use lignite, coal and gas.

While the analysis provides a general overview of the situation, it does not take into account hourly consumption coverage or network bottlenecks.

In the Baltic Sea and Nordic regions, the total generation capacity available is 196 gigawatts. In a normal winter, demand in the region is 182 gigawatts, while in a severe winter that goes up to around 191 gigawatts, said Jarmo Ling, energy market analyst at Elering. "This is a very small margin given the risks in our region," he noted.

In addition, system operators in the region, including Eesti Energia subsidiary Elering, have five gigawatts of off-market capacity set aside for emergency situations. In Estonia for instance, the Kiisa emergency reserve power plant only operates in case of a network failure or capacity shortfall.

According to Ling, although it is possible that additional capacity can be added to the system through such facilities, it is also important to remember that doing so is not always a simple task. "Their deployment is quite situation specific," said Ling. "Not all reserves should be used to cover consumption, because there is a risk that in case of an emergency, there will be a need to maintain the reliability of the power supply system and enable a certain amount of resources to be kept in storage," he explained.

Of the 196 gigawatts of capacity, 91 are in Germany, 29 in Norway, 27 in Poland, 24 in Sweden, 13 in Finland, seven in Denmark and five gigawatts in the Baltics.

Risk of desynchronization remains

For the Baltic States, the biggest risk this winter is the possibility of Russia decoupling or desynchronizing from the Baltic grid.

Erkki Sapp, head of Elering's energy market department, said that synchronizing the Baltic power system with the continental European grid as a matter of urgency requires a secure inertia in the grid, and this can be achieved by ensuring sufficient generation. Maintaining the necessary inertia should not be a problem in winter, when electricity production in the region is already at its peak, he said.

An agreement with system operators in continental Europe to carry out emergency synchronization if necessary, is already in place and the technical facilities to do so have already been installed at the Lithuanian-Polish border.

An additional agreement has also been struck with the Nordic countries to implement the required frequency stabilization measures for both the EstLink and NordBalt connections. It would be possible to obtain up to 400 megawatts of high-speed back-up capacity from the Nordic countries if necessary.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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