Norway’s Transmission Grid Upgrade -The Bigger Picture

Norway’s transmission grid upgrade has wider implications for the Nordic region and Continental Europe.
Published: Mon 17 Aug 2015

A US$30 million order for nine transformers by Norwegian transmission system operator Statnett SF from power and automation technology group ABB supports the country’s aim to increase its own central power grid transmission capacity and to strengthen its energy security, but there are wider implications for other European countries.

The transformers will certainly help to create a more stable and cleaner power supply in Norway but they will also contribute to supporting the integration and transmission of renewable energy between the Nordic region and the rest of Europe. [European Transmission Priorities To 2030].

Drivers for grid development

The three main drivers for grid development in the Nordic region are the integration of renewables (and conventional generation), security of supply and  market integration.

New wind power plants are planned to be built all around the region, but mainly concentrated on the coastal areas and the highlands in the north of the region and in Denmark. This new wind and hydro generation in the northern areas, which already has a high surplus of energy, requires a strengthening of the internal grid in the north-south direction in Sweden, Norway and Finland, additionally to the interconnection capacities between the countries. [North Seas Grid – Call To Action.]

Large hydro reservoirs can balance the changes in wind and solar production as well as the demand fluctuations. Increased interconnection capacity is also needed for exporting the Nordic’s excess.

Without new interconnector capacity, there is a risk of locked-in power in Norway and Sweden. Already, 96% of Norway’s electricity comes from the country's 937 hydropower stations. The country is the sixth largest hydropower producer in the world and amazingly, it has the capacity to produce a lot more energy from hydropower so the potential is significant.

Without sufficient grid capacity, renewable energy investments have the potential to drop and negatively affect renewable targets across the entire region.

Security of supply also drives the need for grid investments,  especially in the northern-most part of Norway due to increased consumption of the oil industry and new mining sites. This leaves Norway with a weak security of supply today. In the Nordic countries, the capacity of wind generation is expected to rise, whilst conventional generating methods are expected to drop.

This means that security of supply could become a problem without transmission investments.

Long term benefits of interconnection and integration

The high power flows between the Nordic area and the rest of  Europe will also create additional motivation for reinforcements within Continental Europe’s grid.

Interconnection helps replace thermal production with renewable generation. It also brings flexibility to the system by optimisation of the system generation despatch during peak/off-peak periods and in windy/non-windy periods.

The interconnectors between Norway/Sweden and Germany and between Norway/Denmark and UK show the highest influence of decreased CO2 emissions of all the European Projects of Common Interest (PCI), according to a Statnett report. [ABB Connects Norway and Denmark Renewables Through HVDC Link and NordLink Plans Power Ahead.]

Market integration is a key driver for grid investments in the Nordic region. More capacity is needed between the Baltic States and the European energy market to thoroughly integrate the Baltic States with the Nordic and European energy market.

Nordic’s working towards Europe’s future grid

While there is strong integration between the Nordic countries, these countries realise that further integration is needed to fully harness the benefits of European countries’ diverse generation portfolios.

This realisation is echoed by the fact that the Nordic TSOs form part of the regional groups that the European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO-E) has established for grid planning and system development tasks.

In addition to this membership, The Nordic Council of Ministers request a Nordic grid development plan to be provided every two years. The first Nordic biannual grid plan was presented at the Ministerial meeting of Nordic Energy ministers in autumn 2012.

There have been a number of joint Nordic grid plans during the last ten years and together they have pinpointed around 10 interconnectors and reinforcements that are critical to the development of the common Nordic and European electricity market.

Further reading

Statnett-Nordic Grid Development Plan 2014 [pdf]