Statnett’s plan to implement the Balsfjord–Skaidi project in stages started with the stretch from Balsfjord to Skillemoen in spring 2016. Updated needs analyses indicated that the northernmost section from Skillemoen to Skaidi could be implemented at a later date. In addition, postponing construction of the final section would allow for the secure start-up and implementation of the first two sections. Consequently, work on the final stretch of the power line was delayed for up to two years.
“The decision to build the line in stages has proven to be the right course of action,” said Auke Lont, CEO of Statnett.
“The work that needs to be done is extensive. The terrain is quite challenging in some spots, far up in the mountains, with challenging weather and temperatures,” added Lont.
“In addition, we have used prefabricated foundations on this project – for the first time in Statnett’s history – which has required additional follow-up in the start-up phase. However, now the time is right, both in relation to the need and our ability to ensure a controlled start-up,” continued Lont.
The power line from Skillemoen to Skaidi will be constructed for a capacity of 420 kV but will be operated at 132 kV until the need increases.
Construction will begin in the autumn of 2019, after the design and procurement process, and the construction phase is expected to run over three years. The stretch is 89 km.
The total cost of the Balsfjord–Skaidi project is estimated at NOK 4–4.5 billion.
Developing the power grid eastward into the county
Updated needs and profitability analyses for the continued development of the power grid from Skaidi to Varangerbotn are more challenging. “There is currently no new consumption which would indicate that 420 kV power line is needed eastward,” said Lont. “At the same time, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) has granted a licence for wind power that is pending capacity in the main grid. However, that alone cannot justify the cost of a 420 kV power line from Skaidi to Varangerbotn.
The plan to build parts of the stretch now, from Adamselv to Lakselv, will not provide sufficient capacity to allow for new production to be connected to the grid. There are other limitations in the current network,” explained Lont.
“Since there is no room in the current power network, and at present, there is no basis for moving forward with a larger investment project from west to east, we feel we have no choice but to apply to the NVE for an exemption from the obligation provide a connection to the power system for wind power from the east,” said Lont. “This is in line with regulations, but must be considered a temporary solution. We cannot accept this over the long term.”
Awaiting commercial developments
“We have therefore taken the initiative to enter into a dialogue with a number of major stakeholders to look at possible consumer needs that could justify extending the network from west to east. Our objective is to work together with stakeholders to develop mature consumption plans that can provide the basis for moving forward to increase network capacity in East Finnmark,” said Lont.
In the pursuit of new consumption, Statnett is establishing a group consisting of Avinor, Enova, Gassco, Statkraft and Petoro. All companies will be represented by their senior management. Other players will also be involved in the work, and Statnett is aiming to have regular dialogue with power companies and a wide range of social actors in the north.
“There are a number of trends that make the timing right for this initiative,” emphasised Lont. “We have found that the cost of new wind power has fallen considerably in recent years. There is increasing interest around the establishment of data centres. Other promising plans include the electrification of ports, airports and land transport, in addition to new optical fibre infrastructure – both nationally and internationally. Opportunities for converting power into portable forms, such as hydrogen or ammonia, should also be highlighted. By involving key social actors, we are trying to facilitate the utilisation of resources in the region.”
Gunnar G. Løvås has been hired in to lead the process. “He is the former CEO of Statnett, and knows the energy sector well,” said Lont.
“Over the next year, we will be working with all of these stakeholders to leave no stone unturned and examine the plans from a comprehensive perspective. In order for us to be able to defend moving forward with increased network capacity in East Finnmark, there must be new consumption. We hope the project will trigger creativity and promote new ideas. We will do our best to make this possible. The future is electric – including in the north,” he concluded.