A dry, cold and expensive first quarter
The first three months were characterised by higher electricity prices due to low water levels in the reservoirs, lower Swedish nuclear power production and a record-high consumption.
At the beginning of 2010, the water level in Norwegian reservoirs was 65 per cent. This is quite normal for this time of year and somewhat lower than the mean value for the period 1993-2009. It is, however, well above previous minimum measurements. High generation and a lower inflow of water to the reservoirs than normal caused the level in the reservoirs to fall quicker than normal for January and February. The situation stabilised somewhat in March, bringing the water level in Norwegian reservoirs to 28.5 per cent at the end of the quarter. This is 12 percentage points below the mean value. However, some areas have been drier than others, and at the end of March, the water levels at Statnett’s power plants in Central Norway and Western Norway were close to the lowest recorded water level.
It was colder than normal throughout the whole of the first quarter. Even though consumption in power-intensive industry was lower than during the same period in the two previous years, more electricity was consumed in Norway during the first three months of the year than in the same period in previous years. Total consumption was 37.6 TWh (billion kilowatt hours), an increase of 2.5 Twh from 2009 and 3 TWh higher than in 2008. It is worth noting that this is not exclusively attributable to the colder weather. Adjusting the general consumption for lower temperatures, the increase is still more than one billion kilowatt hours, compared with the same period last year.
The power generation in Norway was stable and high in January and February. However, generation was lower than consumption in March, which led to higher imports. Total generation for the first quarter was 35.8 TWh. This is somewhat lower than in the two previous years, when generation was 36.1 Twh (2009) and 37 Twh (2008).
Norway was a net importer of electricity during the first three months of 2010, whereas Norway had net exports of electricity during the same period in 2008 and 2009. Net imports for the first quarter were 1.8 Twh, of which approximately 1.2 Twh came from Denmark.
The lower Swedish nuclear power production has had a great impact on electricity prices in the Nordic power market, combined with a higher consumption in Sweden than in 2008 and 2009. Compared with last year, electricity prices on the Nordic power exchange were significantly higher during the first quarter of this year.
The average electricity price last year was approximately 37øre/kWh for both Norway and Sweden (36.7 øre/kWh in Southern Norway and 37 øre/kWh in Central Norway and Northern Norway). The electricity price has doubled in some areas this winter. In the South-eastern region one kWh cost on average 64.1 øre/kWh on the power exchange, in the South-western region 48.9 øre/kWh, in Central Norway 76.7 øre/ kWh, in the Northern region 74.3 øre/kWh and in Sweden 74.2 øre/kWh. The principal reasons for the high electricity prices were a shortage of electricity due to a lower nuclear power generation in Sweden, low water levels in the reservoirs and higher consumption. On the European continent, electricity prices were on average lower than the prices in the Nordic countries during the first quarter.