Published 04 April 2022

With soaring energy prices in Europe, electricity was a hotly debated topic by the end of 2021. But what if there was no guarantee that electricity was available at all? Could security of supply – knowing that your electrical outlets will be powered – be even more important than the price?

Norway’s continuity of supply is measured at over 99.98%. This is an impressive figure, considering the power system’s scope and complexity. However, even though this is a good result, losing power for even a few minutes can have dire consequences. For example, institutions that provide essential services, such as hospitals, rely so much on security of supply that they have emergency generators to be used in the event of an outage. Power outages can also result in prolonged interruptions in factories, as the production line must be restarted completely. These are only a few examples
demonstrating why the development of smart grids is becoming more and more important.

The transition to a low-emission society will also involve a more pluralistic energy mix, including the increased utilisation of both wind and solar power. In addition, more end users will become prosumers, which means that they produce some of their own power from, for example, solar panels. However, producing enough electricity at the correct voltage can be a challenge for prosumers. For example, Norwegians cannot rely solely on solar panels to meet their power needs in the winter. Therefore, most end users will still
need to supplement their self-produced electricity with a secure supply from the national grid, to ensure that they always have power.

Heavy grid loads for short periods

According to NVE, Norway is the only Nordic country to have increased its electricity consumption in the last few years. While the lion’s share of that increase is from industry, Norwegian households and a general economic growth have played a significant role in this development. The increased consumption has given grid companies few challenges in the short term, since grid systems are built to have a good capacity. However, while the total capacity is sufficient, the current grid still faces local challenges. Electricity consumption has increased unexpectedly in some areas, putting a larger strain on the grid. This strain will increase as society continues to electrify.

While Norwegian households have not significantly increased their electrical consumption over the last few years, power peaks have increased. This means that there are periods throughout the day where we use a lot more electricity, which puts a higher strain on the grid. Dimensioning the grid to be able to meet these peak loads is both technologically challenging and expensive. Therefore, instead of engineering a new expensive grid to cover the capacity needs in the few hours of the year where it could be overloaded, grid companies hope for consumers to collaborate with them on a smarter use of the grid.

New challenges in an electrified society

Electrification is a key part of the efforts to decarbonise society and mitigate global warming. However, the climate changes that have already happened are posing challenges to our power system. Stresses from the weather or other external events, such as trees falling on power lines, are the biggest causes of faults and power outages. As more extreme weather events continue to happen, we risk more and longer power outages. The second challenge to the security of supply is the digitalisation of the power system. Digitalisation involves the fusion of power grids and computer infrastructure to make a cyber-physical system. These systems make cybersecurity crucial for the electric grid because a cyberattack could shut down the power supply. Stopping or recovering from a cyberattack require completely different skill sets than clearing and repairing a power line. Therefore, we need secure and alternative solutions to maintain the security of supply.

There is a positive public consensus on the topic of the electrification of society, which involves new and increased electricity consumption and more electricity production from renewable sources. However, there is potentially an insufficient understanding of the consequences of these changes for the power system and security of supply. These challenges also present possibilities: by using new technology and adopting more flexible solutions, we can continue to maintain a high security of supply in the future.

What’s to come in CINELDI?

In 2021, CINELDI passed our midterm evaluation by the Research Council of Norway. As a part of this process, an international panel held digital evaluation meetings and wrote a report on the centre's accomplishments so far. A midterm evaluation is a very useful and timely tool for evaluating our own strategies, research plans and achievements. After receiving the report, we prioritized talking to all our partners, both separately and in different groupings, to ensure that we are on the right track before starting the last centre period 2022-2024.

For this reason, we will implement a new structure of work packages from 2022 and onwards, while continuing our work on all the same research topics. This annual report that you are reading is all about the research and dissemination carried out by CINELDI in 2021. This year, our three first PhD students defended their thesis, which was a big milestone for the research
centre. We would like to thank all our partners for their contributions to our many exciting results and innovations, as well as to the strategic discussions on the centre’s research plans for the CINELDI’s final three

Gerd Kjølle & Sigurd Kvistad