Sweden addresses grid concerns to realise offshore wind potential
15 June 2021
Sweden is working on a proposal that would reduce grid interconnection costs for offshore wind developers.
The government’s plan centers around extending Sweden’s national electricity grid to maritime areas where several facilities, including offshore wind, can be connected. More specifically, the plan requires Svenska kraftnät, the transmission system operator (TSO), to assume some of the project risk by building offshore grid connection infrastructures.
In theory, the plan would lower all-in costs for offshore wind farms and create equal conditions between the country’s onshore and offshore wind sectors while helping to balance Sweden’s power flows.
With a plan to lower interconnection costs – coupled with the region’s attractive wind resources – offshore wind developers have inundated the TSO with grid connection applications – totaling some 50 GW worth of capacity.
According to the Renewables Consulting Group’s (RCG) Global Renewable Infrastructure Projects (GRIP) database, Sweden has already granted grid connection to 28.9 GW of offshore wind grid connection.
Clearly, not all applicants will receive grid access. But the encouraging issue is that Sweden is working diligently to address its transmission constraints even while integrating offshore wind into the mix.
Tor Inge Vevatne, Director and General Manager of RCG Nordic, says reduced grid connection costs for offshore wind will not only benefit developers but will also lead to an increased security of energy supply. “This will be welcomed by regions of the country that are affected by fluctuations in electricity price due to a lack of production capacity and pending decommissioning of nuclear power plants.”
Sweden’s infrastructure ministry is expected to begin grid expansions and upgrades on 1 August 2021.
“This is a necessary step to reach the Swedish Parliament renewable targets,” notes Jimmy Hansson, an advisor to RCG Nordic’s board of directors, adding that the biggest challenge facing Sweden is time.
“This needs to happen now as we already see constraints on the grid,” Hansson explains. “It’s necessary to build out large offshore windfarms in the south like the SE4 and SE3 price areas in order to balance up the grid,” he says.
“Last summer, it was necessary to start up a back-up power plant in the SE4 area in order to keep the balance on the grid,” he cautions. “This will continue until we have got some offshore wind in operation.”
Building a super grid
Running on a parallel track, several Baltic countries are working together to formulate a “super grid” of sorts – one that will evenly distribute capacity across the region, and in effect, strengthen the transmission grid.
In Nov. 2020, Sweden and Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Finland signed the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan (BEMIP), a joint declaration of interest to facilitate offshore wind generation, enhance system planning and buildout the region’s transmission and grid infrastructure.
Among several measures, the BEMIP aims to
recognize the development of renewable offshore wind projects across the Baltic Sea be based on commercially viable solutions;
develop a coordinated approach to comprehensive planning and implementation that considers environmental protection and other uses of the sea; and
encourage transmission system operators to cooperate on offshore grid planning and related transmission infrastructure on land to facilitate cost-effective offshore wind integration.
Advocates remain bullish that Sweden will successfully address its challenges and fulfill its offshore wind promise. After all, one need only look back on Sweden’s recent history with renewable energy.
“This is an exciting time for Sweden,” notes Vevatne.