The power supply status for southern Norway was raising more concerns this week, with state authorities heightening their description of supplies from “tight” to “strained.” That brings the threat of electricity rationing closer, while electricity rates continue to rise.
Following what has been described as a “dramatic” change in the state of the power supply, Statnett, which oversees the country’s power grid, now considers the possibility of electricity rationing to be higher than 20 percent. Statnett made use of the “strained” status for the first time ever in the region, which includes most of the major population centres in Norway including Oslo and Bergen. In response, Statnett has already begun looking at ways to increase production, while hopes are being pinned on spring weather melting snow in the mountains to refill reservoirs.
Statnett’s Tor Inge Akselsen told newspaper Aftenposten that “the biggest problem now is that we have little to go on, and are therefore very vulnerable if errors occur in the power supply,” adding that “it will be particularly dramatic if this happens in the supply from abroad.” The situation has been compared to the conditions experienced in 2003, when rationing was avoided but the crisis led parliamentarians to address the problems affecting Norway’s power supply. Reservoir levels are lower now than at that time, and energy use is considerably higher, adding to the concern around the issue. Those responsible have been quick to point out that the country has far better opportunities to import power from other countries than in 2003, as well as greater domestic production.
People in the south will now hope that spring will not come too late, and that instead the mountain snows will melt in time to replenish the reservoirs. Early this month, reservoirs were reported to be 20 percent full, half as full as during the same time in normal years. In the meantime, authorities are considering a number of energy efficiency measures, as well as whether to start up operations of two mobile gas operations in the region of Midt-Norge, which have until now only been used for test runs.
The latest news comes after predictions that the country’s high electricity charges were likely to remain in place throughout 2011 because of historically low reservoir levels and problems with international supply.