Norway spends billions of NOK every year to expand the power grid and safeguard our power supply.  Adjusting and adapting how we produce and consume electricity may delay or reduce the need for new grid investments. If we can find profitable alternatives, the potential savings for society would be significant. This is the reason why Statnett and Enova have initiated the research project “Alternatives to expanding the power grid”. 

“We hope to find the best way to exploit opportunities for both shifting and reducing consumption, and there are a number of findings that will be interesting to pursue further. As development work moves forward, we must take accessibility, costs and feasibility all into consideration,” said Jan Bråten, Special Advisor at Statnett. “It's important to focus on a wide range of options, so we can secure the power supply in the most cost effective way. In some places this could mean new power lines. In other places, changing consumption patterns may be the most reasonable option.”

Power and energy

Power describes how much electricity you use at a given moment. Energy describes how much electricity you use over time. If you are cooking dinner, running the dryer and charging your electric car all at the same time, you may need a lot of power. However, the amount of energy you use will be the same whether you do all these things at the same time or you do them at different times.

Statnett and Enova commissioned Vista Analysis to draw up reports on this issue and they point to several possible solutions for non-wires alternatives. One example is that if we stop lowering the temperature in commercial buildings at night – and maybe even raise the temperature – we will be able to remove a significant burden from the network in terms of the required power capacity the next morning if we no longer need to heat up all these buildings at the same time. Another example is better regulation of ventilation.  

“When everyone uses electricity at the same times of the day, it demands high capacity in the power supply. However, by shifting our energy consumption and connecting and disconnecting the power supply to power-intensive products, we will be able to reduce the total load during the coldest hours,” said Gunnel Fottland, Head of Development at Enova.

Consumption peaks occur when many people use electricity at the same time. Power consumption varies from hour to hour throughout the day, and it is the peak consumption on the coldest days that determines how much capacity we need in the network. By increasing the use of sensors and control systems, it will be easier to gain the necessary real-time overview and control consumption so that peaks can be reduced. Private households will also be able to contribute by, for example, charging electric cars outside peak times on the coldest days.

 “If we can find smart and cost effektive solutions for shifting parts of the consumption away from the hours with the greatest load on the network, then we may be able to postpone – or even avoid – building certain new network facilities,” explained Bråten, while emphasising the need for a well-developed toolbox if we are to design the most profitable power supply for society.  

We must find good market solutions

The research reports used Oslo and Akershus as an example, which is an area of the country where Statnett’s consumption forecasts show an increased demand for electricity by 2030 and 2050. However, proposed measures will be equally applicable in other towns an urban areas. The report shows that the peak network load occurs during a few hours on the coldest days in the coldest winters, when the additional need for heating comes on top of other power consumption. 

“Electrification to replace the use of fossil energy carriers is one of the most important measures being taken to ensure a successful transition to a low-emission society. But then we need to implement more new technology, digital solutions and business models that exploit the flexibility of the energy system. This is where Enova can make a contribution, and we would like to get in contact with additional stakeholders who are interested in developing forward-looking solutions,” said Gunnel Fottland, Head of Development at Enova.