Swedish electrification opens grid balance opportunities

Tasmin Chowdhary


LONDON (ICIS)–New demand flexibility opportunities have opened in Sweden this year to help tackle power grid balancing issues, countering the influx of variable renewable production connected to the system.

It is an issue particularly for southern price zones in the Scandinavian country where nuclear capacity is being decommissioned and demand rising rapidly.


Nordic transmission system operators (TSOs) launched fast frequency reserve (FFR) balancing in June alongside the existing frequency containment reserve (FCRN) market.

Upsurge in new electricity consumption sources like data centres, battery storage systems and electric transport represent potential demand side response participants. This creates a wider pool for power assets which can join the FFR and FCRN markets to help maintain grid frequency.

Frequency should be maintained near to 50Hz and dropping outside of a range close to this can have a negative consequence, possibly outages. FFR markets can respond within one second of a deviation, compared to FCRN/D which usually take between a few seconds to a few minutes to react.

“Data centres are one of the largest possible assets, of course depending on what kind of power they run and what kind of back up they have,” said Anders Tonhammar Loof, business development manager from Sympower Sweden , an aggregator involved in Nordic demand side response.

Smaller centres could perhaps be more adaptable and run on backup power sources for longer, he added.

There are 21 data centres currently operating or under construction in Sweden, with 16 of these near the capital, according to directory Baxtel.


Launching on 2 November, suppliers, storage, and demand response can participate in a new flexibility pilot in Stockholm, Sthlm Flex , in collaboration with local network operators Ellevio and Vattenfall Eldistribution.

Flex partners will be able to submit “free bids” to the network operator on either the short or long-term products to reduce electricity consumption at a certain time. Bids are cleared the day before delivery.

A smaller minimum size requirement of 0.5MW makes the scheme more accessible, recognising the diverse set of new players connected to the grid like electric charging stations.

Sthlm Flex will only run for this winter but could be fully established if successful. The thermo-sensitive Nordic region can battle with high peaks in demand on icy winter days.

“The project members believe that these markets are something that will be needed for several years to come, and therefore hope that we can have a long-term collaboration with the participants.” Linda Schumacher from Swedish TSO Svenska Kraftnat told ICIS.


As more reliable hydro reservoir and nuclear production falls, preserving consistent grid frequency becomes difficult.

Closure of utility Vattenfall’s 880MW Ringhals 1 nuclear unit at the end of the year will further limit supply availability in Sweden’s central bidding zone SE3.

Swedish parliament, Riksdag, rejected a proposal in January to extend the unit’s lifetime beyond 2020, so the country could fulfil its long-run climate ambition to reach net zero emissions by 2045, one of the earliest in Europe.

Strong wind capacity growth has led to excess supply in the northern regions, while key demand areas in the south like Stockholm will struggle with lack of nuclear baseload output.

“If there is a lot of wind, there is a lot of need for FFR more or less,” Loof said.

It is an issue that has become more pronounced with changing demand patterns from coronavirus restrictions earlier this year, particularly rising household and dipping industrial consumption.


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