This is more bad news for the European consumer. Norway, a major electricity exporter, has said it could halt supplies to Europe in the coming months. This time it’s not about the shortage of Russian gas, but about climate change, which is responsible for drying up water reservoirs that feed the 1,700 hydroelectric power stations at the source of more than 90% of the electricity produced by the country.
In general, the reservoirs upstream of the dams are 78.9% full in early August, according to the Norwegian Directorate for Water Resources and Energy (NVE). This year, 2022, they are only 68.4% full. In question: the exceptionally low rainfall for the last two years. The situation is particularly worrying in southwestern Norway, where reservoirs are only 50.4% full. It is precisely from this region that the country of 5.4 million inhabitants, Europe’s second largest supplier of gas, supplies a good part of its electricity to its European and British neighbors.
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In 2021, its exports reached 25.8 terawatt hours (TWh), a 30% increase from 2020. This record is partly explained by the commissioning of two new cables connecting Germany and the United States to Norway, which also carries electricity to Sweden delivers. Finland and Denmark. But if its exports continue to grow, the Scandinavian kingdom’s manufacturing capacity will grow at a much slower pace. Hence a warning from the NVE in June.
Alarmed by the low level of the water reservoirs, the Norwegian management urged the electricians to reduce their production, despite rising prices on the European market, in order to allow the reservoirs to be refilled this autumn and avoid a severe energy crisis. In a column published in the daily newspaper Aftenposten on 27 June, NVE director Kjetil Lund reminded electricians of their “responsibility to manage not just a commodity but an essential resource for society”. He asked them to “hold back water so that the fall fill of the reservoir will be high enough to handle the unforeseen events of the coming winter and spring.”
For its part, Statnett, the Norwegian electricity grid operator, has warned that rationing measures could be imposed from October, including the closure of industries, tariff increases or even blackouts. A prospect that raises the concern and anger of Norwegians, used to paying for their electricity at low prices and seeing their bills skyrocket. In December 2021, the Norwegian government, led by Labor Jonas Gahr Store, announced a first aid plan aimed at reducing costs for the consumer.
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