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Oslo announced on Monday a plan to limit the sale of power supplies to foreign nations amid fears that the country’s own hydroelectric power generation is plummeting due to heatwaves. Nearly all of Norway’s electricity is generated through hydropower, raising the alarm after production levels fell to their lowest “seen so far this year” in the south west.
For that reason, Petroleum and Oil Minister Terje Aasland said that “we cannot completely rule out a period of electricity rationing in the spring”.
He warned in a speech: “It is, therefore, natural that we make the necessary adjustments so that our hydropower system will continue to be a guarantor of a good power supply for Norwegian households and businesses through troubled times, both in years with a lot of rainfall and in periods when the inflow fails.”
He later added: “The government will therefore ensure that we have arrangements that prioritize the filling of our hydropower reservoirs and the security of supply for electricity, and limit exports when the water level in the reservoirs drops to very low levels.”
This could be a worry for Britain, which is sent Norwegian supplies through a 450-mile interconnector linking the country to Britain.
Norway is threatening to limit energy exports to Britain
Norway gets most of its electricity from hydroelectric power
And as Britain has plans to draw more electricity from the interconnector over the winter, supplies risk becoming tighter and pose the risk of bills becoming even higher for consumers.
It also comes as the UK plans to become more dependent on the Nordic region than ever before.
According to the National Grid, interconnectors are expected to provide up to 5.7 gigawatts of electricity at peak times.
And a staggering 1.4 gigawatts, which is a quarter, of that supply is set to come from Norway.
According to estimates, the interconnector could potentially power up to 1.4 million homes.
This is why the Norway connection could play a vital role in the National Grid’s ability to keep the lights on in the UK when domestic electricity generation is low.
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Norway is a major energy supplier to Britain
Kathryn Porter, An energy consultant at Watt-Logic, has warned that Norway’s proposed restrictions “put at risk the ability of Britain to import” from the nation this winter.
She said: “National Grid ESO needs to urgently update its winter outlook taking account of this threat to Britain’s energy security,” she added.
“Longer term, we need to develop more domestic generation and rely less on imports.”
And indeed a National Grid spokesman has said that company will update its winter forecasts so that they are “as robust as possible” in the autumn.
While this situation is not linked directly to gas supplies, energy expert Jess Ralston has raised the alarm over slashed energy supplies from foreign suppliers. Ms Ralston, from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said: “Higher gas prices in Europe mean higher gas prices in the UK, as until we wean ourselves off gas for good, we are part of global gas markets.
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Norwegians urged Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre to limit exports
“Expensive wholesale gas will already add over £2,000 to our bills this year, and tighter supply means that this may rise again.
“So, the pressure will certainly be on the new Prime Minister to reduce our energy demand in the first place, by insulating our leaky homes for example, and building out more homegrown renewables so we are shielded from Putin turning on and off the gas taps.”
But while Britain’s Norway exports are under threat, Oslo pledged to maintain its cooperation with the UK and other European nations.
Mr Aasland said in his speech: “The energy cooperation and our transmission connections have therefore been and are part of the fundamental security for the Norwegian power supply, especially in periods of low inflows.
“We depend on our connections to Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the UK, Finland and the Netherlands working well.
Experts warned bills could soar higher if supplies are restricted
“It would be short-term and unwise to end this energy cooperation, even if the situation is now demanding.”
But he warned: “At the same time, it is our job to secure our own power supply in uncertain times.
“We must have security so that we can cover our own needs in the face of abnormal and unforeseen events. It requires stronger regulation.”
This also comes after pressure piled on the Oslo Government to limit its exports as boosted demand for its supplies amid the Russia crisis sent energy costs in the nation soaring.
In response, a 600,000-strong Facebook group named Vi som krever billigere strøm (meaning “we who demand cheaper electricity”) unleashed fury at the “price contagion”.
The group urged Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre to take action to “limit exports when the degree of hydroelectric water reservoir filling is below a certain level”. That now appears to have been a successful campaign, given that this is exactly what the country’s energy minister has pledged to do.