In our neighbouring Sweden, severe frost revealed the structural problem areas of the country's electricity network. The situation was worst in the southern parts of the country, where the electricity network power lines are weaker than in northern Sweden. Much of Sweden's electricity is generated in the north, and in the winter frosts it is not possible to distribute electricity sufficiently along old power lines. Thus, the problems were caused by the capacity of the electricity network in particular.
Swedes were urged to avoid using equipment that consumes a lot of electricity and were asked to save electricity, especially in the mornings and evenings, when consumption is highest. The network problems also extended to industry, and paper machines, for example, had to be shut down.
Capacity problems do not appear from nowhere
The poor capacity of the network and the lack of preparedness for extreme weather events were also reflected in Texas, USA. The exceptionally cold weather caused households to increase their heating capacity, which abruptly increased the state’s electricity consumption. Simultaneously, production was reduced due to problems caused by frost. The company that manages the Texas electricity network was able to regulate the use of electricity at the last minute, in other words, to cut off electricity distribution from "less critical" areas before the entire electricity network collapsed. However, the disturbance cut off electricity from 4.5 million residents.
In Finland, cold weather has so far not affected the reliability of electricity distribution. However, our network, built mainly in the 1950s and 1960s, requires continuous and long-term development work, such as the renovation and construction of substations. Finnish Energy estimates that electricity consumption will increase by 10–20 per cent by 2030. The last time growth was equally strong was in the 1990s.
We have clear signs of an increase in demand for electricity as society is electrified and electricity replaces fossil fuels. Therefore, work must be done now to ensure the security of supply of Finnish electricity networks. Otherwise, we will face regional inequality like in Texas and Sweden: in "less important" areas, vacuuming or heating the sauna on frosty evenings is not allowed.
Battery storage loves a smart electricity network
We at Caruna seek cost-effective solutions to ensure electricity distribution in all conditions. The shipping container-sized battery we developed together with Fortum was connected to our medium-voltage network last year, and it is used in the event of power cuts caused by maintenance or faults.
The electrification of our society has a significant impact on Finland's electricity distribution networks. With the current development investments, we will be able to kill two birds with one stone. In addition to improving reliability, the investments increase the intelligence and capacity of the network to ensure more efficient remote control and fault repairs of the network and the distribution capacity of carbon-neutral, renewable electricity – whatever the weather.