One of the coldest January months in many years has sent electric rates soaring as thermometers sank. Market rates passed their highest level in five years on Monday, meaning that most Norwegians need to brace for some mighty big bills ahead.
“We had a real jump today,” Bengt Haugnes, in charge of power trading for electricity firm Sogn og Fjordane Energi, told Norwegian Broadcasting on Monday. Rates were five times higher from early- to mid-morning, rising from NOK 0.5 to NOK 2.60 per kilowatt hour.
Haugnes blamed the sharp rise on freezing temperatures all over the country, dry weather with little precipitation to top up reservoirs for hydroelectric power, and little if any wind to generate electricity from turbines. Norway has mostly had sub-zero temperatures since New Year, all over the country, and weather forecasts call for more of the same. It was minus-11C (12F) in Oslo Monday morning.
“There’s been a steady increase in wind power in Norway, so now wind conditions also influence electricity rates,” Haugnes said.
State meteorologist Geir-Otta Fagerlid cautioned Norwegians to especially bundle up later this week, when temperatures are due to fall to around minus-20 or lower on Wednesday and Thursday. Ice has been forming on the Oslo Fjord for the first time in years.
Electricity rates had already tripled by early January and have remained high since. “I think the high rates will continue into February,” electricity analyst Ole Tome Djupskås told business news service E24.
The rates had sunk to some of their lowest points in years, after a very rainy and mild autumn that filled reservoirs feeding Norway’s hydroelectric power supplies. “But now it’s dry and cold and that will probably continue well into February,” Djupskås said. The hydroelectric plants are operating at full capacity, “but it’s not enough” to keep rates low. Some electricity is being bought from sources in Europe where rates are high.
A new record for electricity use was set in mid-January, when Statnett reported consumption of 24,536 megawatts between 8am and 9am on January 15. That, according to the state power distributor, is equal to 24 million wall heaters going at full force.