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Climate change calls for preparations

The Finnish authorities are forecasting and making preparation for the risks related to weather and climate conditions due to climate change. Fingrid is working closely with the authorities to ensure that electricity transmission continues uninterrupted, even in the event of extreme weather.

In Finland, the security of supply is the responsibility of various ministries within their branches of administration and the municipalities on a local level. The National Emergency Supply Agency (NESA) develops operations and takes responsibility for various special tasks. The vital elements involved in preparing for the energy revolution are summarised in NESA’s Energy 2030 programme.

“With the advent of the energy revolution, solutions targeting factors such as the availability of Finnish renewable fuels, the secure supply of electricity and the increasing share of primary sources of energy, such as nuclear power and wind power, will increasingly be used to ensure the security of supply and manage the associated risks,” says Hannu Hernesniemi, Chief Analyst at the National Emergency Supply Agency.

NESA works in collaboration with other authorities. It has also been involved in collaboration with critical companies with the help of the Krivat service, and Fingrid is one such company. Krivat helps companies to forecast disruptions and manage the division of labour in the event of a crisis.

“The Electricity Market Act obligates Fingrid to make preparations for disruptions. Fingrid has a multiprofessional preparedness team, which focuses primarily on maintaining the security of supply,” says Kari Lindholm, chairman of the preparedness team.

Making preparations for large-scale power outages

Power outages have a wide-ranging impact on society. The lights go out, food cannot be cooked and electric heating stops working. It is not long before telephone connections and IT services go down. The cash registers at shops and the petrol pumps at service stations no longer function. However, society has made preparations for outages in many ways.

“To ensure that fuel can be dispensed, NESA has, for example, equipped four service stations in various parts of Finland with generators intended primarily for the use of emergency service vehicles. The aim is for this back-up arrangement to cover approximately 70 service stations. Ensuring the supply of daily consumer goods would require around 300 shops to be equipped with back-up power,” Hernesniemi says.

Energy companies and the authorities hold joint JÄÄTYVÄ exercises, which have demonstrated that the various parties have significantly improved their levels of preparedness.

Sleet and frost in the winter 

According to the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the weather and climate risks that Finland is facing due to climate change include an increase in the amount of winter rainfall and sleet in southern Finland and more snow, particularly in northern and eastern Finland. The temperature rise will be most clearly apparent during the winter months. This will increase the number of freeze-thaw cycles, which cause wear on infrastructure. The layer of ground frost will become thinner, affecting the carrying capacity of forest roads, among other issues.

“Heavy snow can fell trees, but the power line corridors on the transmission grid are so wide that trees are not able to fall onto the lines. When the temperature fluctuates either side of the freezing point, ice starts to build up on the lines. In some places, we have raised the elevations of lightning conductors and used stronger cable types. The freezing rains that cause so much trouble in Central Europe have not yet begun to affect Finland, but we are keeping track of grid companies’ experiences with such rain. Slippery or soft roads will not prevent faults from being repaired, but it may slow work down,” Lindholm states.

In the event of problems, Fingrid is able to call employees in from construction sites and network maintenance to help. The Nordic transmission system operators also help each other when they are in need.

Thunderstorms and forest fires in the summer

Summer heatwaves are getting longer, leading to higher risks of thunder and storms. Dryness also increases the risk of forest fires.

“Heatwaves are not a problem for the grid, but storm winds and thunder can be. At the moment, we do not foresee any thunderstorms that are too severe for the network to cope with. Forest fires are a risk to the grid, and clearing is the most effective way to combat such fires,” Lindholm says.

Rising sea levels or flooding will not affect the grid – at least not in the near future – because power lines and substations are rarely located near bodies of water. Floods can affect other types of infrastructure.

In the light of present information, Finland’s grid will be able to withstand the weather phenomena that will hit it over the next few decades. However, preparations are being made to mitigate climate risks.

“The grid is a part of society, and its functionality depends on thing such as telecommunication links, which can be more susceptible to changes in the weather. However, I do not expect the national grid to fail due to the climate in the next few decades,” Lindholm says.


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