Fingrid CEO gives dire warning of Russian cable project
Toivonen calls idea expensive and unreliable
Fingrid, Finland's company responsible for nationwide electricity transmission, says that plans to set up an electric cable from Russia capable of transmitting 1,000 megawatts of electricity to Finland would require massive investments in the electric grid, as well as the construction of new reserve power generation capacity.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Timo Toivonen said that the EUR two billion needed for the investments would be equivalent to the value of the Finland's whole main grid, and that making the investment would not guarantee that the system would work.
Fingrid sharply opposes plans by the Russian-owned United Power to build a transfer cable under the Baltic Sea to Finland. Toivonen says that the increasing shortage of electricity in the St. Petersburg area significantly increases the risk that a major supply disturbance would occasionally cut transmission to Finland completely.
There is currently a 1,000 megawatt transmission line that runs from Russia to Finland. If that supply were cut off, the present system would be able to handle the shortfall.
"However, with a new cable, Finland would face a change of 2,000 megawatts all at once, which the system would not withstand.", Toivonen said.
He also has doubts whether or not the promised amounts of electricity would be available even in normal circumstances: electricity consumption in the St. Petersburg area is growing by five percent a year, and the electricity shortage is getting worse all the time.
Last year Russia cut back on electricity exports to Finland several times, sometimes giving less than half an hour's warning.
"It was a great shock to us. We had believed that Russia would not take this road. We have had deep discussions on the matter with the Russians, and they have not promised that it would not happen again", Toivonen said.
Toivonen said that a cable would be possible only when there is much more electricity produced in the St. Petersburg area.
"There are plans, but implementing them takes much time and money."
Toivonen also expresses amazement that the would-be builders of the cable have not been in contact with the administrators of Russia's main grid. If the cable is not linked up with the main grid, the only option would be to link it directly with the Sosnovyi Bor nuclear power plant.
"It would be better for Finland's electricity system, but it involves other technical questions, and issues related to nuclear safety", Toivonen noted.
He also refuted accusations of bias within Fingrid. There have been suggestions that Fingrid is promoting the interests of its main owners - the electricity suppliers Pohjolan Voima and Fortum, which could be worried that increased imports could bring down the price of electricity and reduce the profitability of the power companies.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Vanhanen denies "pressure" from Russia on undersea electric cable issue (3.4.2006)
Study: Underwater mains cable from Russia would lower price of electricity in Finland by 3-9 percent (23.3.2006)
Proposed undersea cable would double electricity imports from Russia (15.12.2005)
Russian environmental activist seeks asylum in Finland (12.12.2005)
Russia wants to extend life of Sosnovyi Bor nuclear plant through 2026 (17.5.2006)