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PA IN THE MEDIA

High electricity prices in the south are not due to decommissioned reactors

This article was first published in Dagens Nyheter

Torbjörn Severinsson, energy expert: ” There is a difference between an electricity crisis and an electricity price crisis. The fact that electricity in southern Sweden is extremely expensive is due to Putin's invasion of Ukraine.”

The election debate surrounding the closed reactors in Ringhals is misleading. The soaring electricity prices in southern Sweden would most likely have been at the same level even if the defunct Swedish reactors had been in operation.

The fact that Sweden is in a very serious electricity crisis is indisputable. At DN Debatt, the party leaders of the M, SD, KD and L believe that the electricity crisis is "largely self-inflicted". But in the article and in the general election debate, politicians are not telling the truth when they equate the electricity crisis with the electricity price crisis.

Due to Russia's throttling of natural gas supply, electricity prices in much of Europe have skyrocketed.

The electricity crisis is about the risk that so-called disconnection of cargo in the electricity networks will take place in southern Sweden during the coldest hours of the winter, due to a negative power balance in the electricity price area SE4. Swedish power grids estimate that during the peak load hour 2022/2023 in the electricity price area SE4, the import requirement of 3 GW will be a normal winter, which is exactly the same power balance as in 2021/2022. The risk of disconnection thus existed even before Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

What Sweden, like the majority of other European countries, has suffered from is an electricity price crisis. Due to Russia's throttling of natural gas supply, electricity prices in much of Europe have skyrocketed.

The Nord Stream 1 and 2 natural gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea have a capacity to transport natural gas from Russia to Germany equivalent to up to 600 TWh. Simplified, that volume of natural gas could contribute to a total electricity production of 300 TWh annually. This is more than twice as much electricity as the whole of Sweden consumes for a whole year. When this amount of electricity production has been removed from the European electricity market, the price of electricity has skyrocketed because the market is based on supply and demand.

Today's situation with skyrocketing electricity prices in southern Sweden would most likely have been more or less the same if no reactors had been shut down, but Sweden would have exported even more electricity. Ringhals 1 and 2 had the opportunity to deliver, at best, 13 TWh per year, which corresponds to 5 percent of the electricity production potential that has disappeared just by no natural gas being transported in Nord Stream. Added to this are further reduced natural gas supplies from Russia to Europe.

It is important that Sweden works long-term to improve the power balance by using demand response, storage and new production throughout the country, but the current electricity price crisis in southern Sweden is explained by Putin's invasion of Ukraine and its knock-on effects, not by closed Swedish reactors.

In the Swedish debate, there is also little talk about the fact that the Nordic region's largest nuclear reactor Olkiluoto 3, in the midst of this electricity price crisis, started and this week approached the power of 1,000 MW (peak power is 1,600 MW), without electricity prices falling to "normal" levels. The extended stop of Ringhals 4, on the other hand, means that the power balance deteriorates in SE3, which is alarming when we talk about the risk of disconnected consumption.

It is important that Sweden works long-term to improve the power balance by using demand response, storage and new production throughout the country, but the current electricity price crisis in southern Sweden is explained by Putin's invasion of Ukraine and its knock-on effects, not by closed Swedish reactors.

Contact the author

Contact the energy and utilities team