ARKANSAS, Oct 6 (Future Headlines)- Finland’s energy landscape is facing a significant dispute regarding the cost of power backup for Olkiluoto 3 (OL3), Europe’s largest nuclear reactor. The situation has pitted the reactor’s owners, the TVO consortium, against the national grid operator, Fingrid. This dispute, fueled by allegations of “unfounded restrictions” on OL3’s power generation, has prompted an official complaint from TVO and caught the attention of Finland’s energy authority, which is tasked with reaching a resolution “as soon as possible.”
Olkiluoto 3, a nuclear reactor boasting a capacity of 1.6 gigawatts (GW), commenced regular power production in April. This marked a significant milestone after a staggering 18 years of construction and testing, during which legal battles over costs and delays became a recurring theme. The ownership of OL3 rests with the TVO consortium, comprising entities such as utility company Fortum, chemicals producer Kemira, and forestry groups UPM and Stora Enso, among others.
The heart of the dispute revolves around the requirement imposed by Fingrid whenever OL3’s production exceeds 1.3 GW. In such instances, Fingrid mandates that TVO maintains sufficient power backup capacity on standby, ready to address potential technical failures that could otherwise result in a blackout across the national grid.
TVO’s complaint centers on the practicality and feasibility of this arrangement. The consortium includes major industrial power consumers who have typically reduced their own production to provide system backup. However, this becomes impractical during essential maintenance shutdowns, rendering them unable to fulfill their backup obligations.
Johanna Aho, TVO’s Head of Communications, highlighted the recurring issue, stating, “During the past months, OL3’s output has often been reduced because the backup capacity has not been fully available.” TVO contends that a more modern and adaptable backup system is needed to meet the requirements of today’s energy landscape.
Fingrid, as the national grid operator, emphasizes its role in safeguarding the public interest and the well-being of power end-users. Jukka Ruusunen, Chief Executive of Fingrid, asserted that the core of the dispute is financial, stating, “This discussion is all about money.” Fingrid represents the broader public interest, including the eventual bill that power end-users would need to shoulder for investments in national power backup capacity.
Ruusunen underscored that the current backup arrangement dates back two decades, when the OL3 project was in its infancy, and reserve capacity held minimal financial value. However, the situation has evolved drastically, with TVO’s reserves now valued at 100 million euros annually in the reserve markets.
Fingrid is reluctant to embrace TVO’s proposal that it should bear the cost of constructing a new form of protection for OL3. Such an endeavor would ultimately be funded by power users, leading to a substantial financial burden.
Olkiluoto 3 plays a pivotal role in meeting Finland’s power demand, accounting for approximately 14% of the country’s overall electricity needs. Given its considerable capacity, OL3’s operation is of national importance, making the resolution of the backup power dispute crucial for the stability and reliability of Finland’s energy supply.
The dispute surrounding the cost of power backup for OL3 reflects the evolving dynamics of Finland’s energy sector. The prolonged legal battles over OL3’s construction have now transformed into a financial and operational challenge, highlighting the need for an updated approach to backup capacity. As Finland’s energy authority works diligently to reach a resolution, the outcome will have implications not only for OL3’s owners and Fingrid but also for the broader public and power end-users who rely on the stability of the national grid.
Reporting by Alireza Sabet; Editing by Sarah White