Weather conditions causing blackouts in eastern Finland

KUAS

Power companies in eastern Finland have struggled for about a week to restore power to homes plunged into darkness as a result of power lines giving way under the burden of heavy snowfall shortly after the New Year.

The power companies in Kainuu, Northern Savo and Noth Karelia have deployed hundreds of electricians, and several helicopters and military vehicles to locate tree falls, and clear and repair downed power lines. Resident evacuations have been carried out in several rural municipalities due to lack of back-up heating systems and dropping temperatures. So far, about 20,000 households have experienced blackouts, some in most remote areas lasted over a week.

In Finland, national contingency planning is based on the contingency legislation stating responsibilities of organisations, institutes and privately-owned companies to prepare for emergencies. The system encompasses the society in all levels, and helps to respond in events such as experienced heavy snow and tree falls. The current operation in eastern Finland is coordinated accordingly by the Rescue Services.

The GREBE project investigates the impact of extreme weather conditions to the renewable energy business in northern and arctic peripheral areas. This includes sharing information on contingency planning, among others, which is essential topic as the latest challenges prove in the eastern Finland.

Contingency planning in Finland: https://arctic-council.org/eppr/resources/national-contingency-planning/finland/

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The climate affected economy in the NPA-Regions

The second report from Work Package 4 in the GREBE Project was presented at the GREBE partnership meeting in Narvik this week. The results from the survey shows that the extreme climate has an affect on the economy and the financial outcome for businesses in NPA GREBE partner regions. Impacts of extreme weather / weather events on infrastructure is estimated to cost around €11 million only in Norway. This will give an estimated cost for the 6 NPA regions included in the GREBE project a weather dependent cost for the SMEs of approximately €60 – 80 million each year.

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GREBEs Report on the Influence of Environmental Conditions in NPA and Arctic Regions and the next steps

Rural businesses in the energy sector as well as other sectors provide an important liveihood in the northern peripheral areas of Europe. The harsh climatic conditions experienced in many NPA regions, particularly high north and arctic regions, present significant challenges to SMEs and start-ups that can seriously impact on the viability of their businesses. In the Report on the Influence of Environmental Conditions in NPA and Arctic Regions there was findings that indicate that there exists significant climate challenges in the partner regions with different types of harsh weather. Low temperature, hard winds, and rain / snow conditions can be extreme in the NPA regions.

In the GREBE Report on Innovations from Local Technology and Business Solutions the question is: How do businesses located in these areas compensate or cope with unforeseen climate change effects?

What is extreme weather?

An extreme weather occurrence can be defined in different ways and the metrological institutes in each GREBE partner region have their definition made to optimize the specific conditions in each region. A broad institutional indication is often presented when life and values may be lost caused by the extreme weather condition. However, in this report the definition used is:

“Extreme weather conditions are weather that most likely provide problems for people, business and infrastructure”. 

“Local extreme weather” is the weather impact on societal infrastructure in the different NPA regions and is considered to affect the business activities. The phenomenon of “local extreme weather” is serious for the single business when it occurs and may have serious consequences for a business competing in an open market.

NSP 21-06-2017

Climate effects on society and business:

The impact of “local extreme weather” is considered manageable and moderate in most of the northern EU regions, and structural activities that can minimize the negative effects of harsh weather on small, rural energy companies:

  1. Regional cooperation – The diverse geographical areas of northern Europe, are experiencing a number of joint challenges in relation to location, but also possible opportunities that can be overcome and realized by regional cooperation. The experience from each region may be introduced to other Northern European areas and innovations from different parts in society can be used to create specific growth initiatives and common efficient business opportunities of the European Northern and Arctic regions in a climate efficient way. One major impact of challenges and initiatives in business operations is the influence of weather conditions on society and in the extension of SME business operations and productivity located in these areas.
  2. Strategic handling – Today, many operators in society refer to weather as a restriction in budget and argue that it is a phenomenon that has an actual impact on business. However, the weather can be a strong benefit for the business when an updated insight into the specific local conditions is available and by using a strategic handling document based upon regional knowledge and experience from other businesses. Even national weather organizations are today providing companies this service.
  3. Variety of weather – The final implication is that a change in weather pattern will result in a variety of weather phenomenon that can affect the NPA regions in a different matter. There are different effects on the society, depending upon the specific region, i.e. flooding, wind, and disturbance on roads by fallen trees or avalanche.

Results from the GREBE survey

As part of the GREBE Report on Innovations from Local Technology and Business Solutions, it was found that SMEs compensate for weather constraints and disruptions by:

  • Timing, operational planning and using experienced contractors
  • Compensating investments in fertiliser storage capacities
  • Avoiding challenging times in transportations (thaws)
  • Planning in construction phase (needed insulations) for arctic conditions
  • During processes by preventing freezing (heating, antifreezes)

 Business strategy – A minimal planning strategy for weather related disturbance in business are generally lacking both in long and in short seasonal terms. The absence of business strategies tends to characterise SMEs in rural GREBE regions both in limited financial contingency as well as in maintaining physical systems and services.

There are some cost related economic factors that will affect the small business in a rural areas of Northern Europe and it may be time to consider a new weather and climate economy that compensates the businesses that are fighting against the nature and experience higher costs in their energy operations. These companies are strategically located in rural areas which require entrepreneurs, employments opportunities and an innovative environment.

The full Report on Innovations from Local Technology and Business Solutions can be downloaded from the GREBE website HERE

GREBE Report on the Influence of Environmental Conditions in NPA & Arctic Regions

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Global climate change impacts Europe in many ways, including: changes in average and extreme temperature and precipitation, warmer oceans, rising sea level and shrinking snow and ice cover on land and at sea. These weather phenomenons have led to a range of impacts on ecosystems, socio-economic sectors and human health and safety. There is no doubt that the changes in climate will have a strong impact in our daily life, whether we accept extreme weather conditions as a new phenomenon or not. Adaptation to the past history data, present observed and future predicted impacts will in the coming decades be needed, as well as be complementary to global climate mitigation actions. Narvik Science Park has made a report on this in the GREBE-Project.

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Background

The harsh climatic conditions experienced in many NPA regions, particularly high north and arctic regions, present significant challenges to SMEs and start-ups that can seriously impact on the viability of their businesses. Winter storms regularly occurring in the high north, known as polar lows or arctic weather fronts, can bring about sudden and extreme drops in temperatures, with debilitating ice and snow conditions developing quickly. Also, in the North West Europe the influence from the North Atlantic Oscillation give rise to storms, resulting in high winds and precipitations. These conditions frequently give rise to unsafe working conditions and suspension of business operations, particular in the case of technology installations. Operational environments in these areas are often vulnerable irrespective of climatic conditions, given their isolated, remote locations, far away from technical maintenance staff, and which are often difficult to access by road, air or sea. Businesses located in these areas must compensate for fragile and less robust parameters, in order to cope with unforeseen sudden disturbances (for instance, climate change effects).

There are significant climate challenges in the partner regions with different types of harsh weather. Low temperature, hard winds, and rain/ snow conditions can be extreme in the NPA regions. The question is – how to find the best process conditions for business in remote NPA communities, where knowledge transfer is an important aspect. A harsh local/regional climate, sparsely populated areas together with rural geographic related issues and poor infrastructure have a tendency to bias the company’s business models.

Effects on GREBE regions in Northern Europe

Findings from the work of NSP – In the northeastern part of Europe there is a high societal disturbance caused by wind, rain and in some sense also freezing rain. Since the occurrence of harsh weather conditions are not frequent, the effect will be more palpable. In comparison the norther part of Europe, i.e. Iceland has a frequent presence of high wind conditions that in this case will be more of a “normal” continuous state in daily weather.  In the northeast coastal regions of Europe, the weather is more unpredictable with suddenly arising storms, i.e. polar lows, delivering both rain/snow and windy conditions. In the mainland northeast regions there are precipitation and in conjunction with this often cold climate.

“Local extreme weather” – The weather impact on societal infrastructure in the different NPA regions is considered to be affecting the business activities. The phenomenon of “local extreme weather” is serious for the single business when affects and may have serious consequences to compete in an open market. The trends in towards more local extreme weather is indicating the following spread in northern Europe:

  • Ireland/Northern-Ireland – Wind & Storms
  • Scotland – Rain & Wind
  • Iceland – Wind & Cold
  • Norway – Snow & Cold
  • Finland – Ice & Snow

The economic outcome is then a vulnerable factor in these NPA regions that gives a negative bias for local business and a non-favorable competitive disadvantage compared to similar businesses in other EU regions.

The Regional readiness

The readiness from the society to handle harsh weather and local “extreme” conditions varies from country to country in northern Europe. The regional readiness in local “extreme weather conditions” should be an important measure when establishing new enterprises and a serious risk analysis should be made before each activity starts, by taken in account the possibility for weather disturbance. Based upon the description below from each GREBE partner region, an indicative regional or even local perception has to be defined. The overall measure that indicates some connection between local “extreme weather frequency” and a corresponding indication of society readiness can be of great value. This opens for a discussion and action plans or even a business strategy plan, concerning suddenly weather extremes that are changing in a fast manner, like for example in frequency and behavior. This will also reflect the current climate change in coherence with business activities that we are experiencing and specifically when it is expected to make the biggest noticeable effect on the environment in the Arctic and sub-arctic regions. The regional readiness in society is of great importance when considering time loss of energy, restriction in transportations or not operational production.

However, the impact of “local extreme weather” is considered manageable and moderate in most of the northern EU regions. The frequency of these weather phenomenons can be severe when an indirect impact occurs, e.g. avalanches, coldness, strong winds and flooding will also in the future cause disturbances in the society. These occurrences mainly affect the accessibility to production plants and the mobility of staff. Nevertheless, there is always a high risk that the safety aspect will in each situation not be fully understood. The “local extreme weather” is always important to relate to for both personnel and business operations.

Conclusions –  climate effects on society business

  1. Regional cooperation – The widely spread geographical areas of northern Europe, is experiencing a number of joint challenges in relation to its location, but also possible opportunities that can be overcome and realized by regional cooperation. The experience from each region may be introduced to other Northern European areas and innovations from different parts in society can be used to create specific growth initiatives and common efficient business opportunities of the European Northern and Arctic regions in a climate efficient way. One major impact of challenges and initiatives in business operations is the influence of weather conditions on society and in the extension also SME business operations and productivity located in these areas.
  2. Strategic handling – Today, many operators in society refer to weather as a restriction in budget and argue that it is a phenomenon that has an actuable impact on business. However, the weather can be a strong benefit for the business when an updated insight into the specific local conditions is available and by using a strategic handling document based upon regional knowledge and experience from other businesses. Even national weather organizations are today providing companies this service.
  3. Variety of weather – The final implication is that a change in weather pattern will result in a variety of weather phenomenon that can affect the NPA regions in a different matter. There are different effects on the society, depending upon the specific region, i.e. flooding, wind, and disturbance on roads by fallen trees and avalanche.

You can download the report from the GREBE Project website:

http://grebeproject.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/GREBE-Report-on-the-Influence-of-Environmental-Conditions-in-NPA-Arctic-Regions.pdf

Weather records in Finland – Opportunities for renewables

Kuittila Farm CHP

Finland has seen extremes in weather conditions within the recent weeks, December 2015 has been exceptionally mild whereas the new year starts with cold records in January. Those extreme conditions offer chances for renewable energy, especially energy from forest resources.

December 2015 warm – January 2016 cold.

Finland has seen higher temperatures in December 2015 than ever before, with a new record broken on Sunday 20th of December. The exceptionally mild winter continued in Finland, with temperature records broken twice already in December. On 6 December Åland basked in a relatively balmy 11.1 degrees, but that record was broken on Sunday 20th in Kokemäki, where monitoring stations recorded 11.2 degrees.

That has, however, changed now in January. Cold air from the Arctic is dominating weather conditions in Finland, with the coldest temperatures of the winter so far recorded on Wednesday 6th of January. Finland is enveloped in a Siberian deep freeze this week, severe cold continues to chill Finland, with temperatures below -20 degrees Celsius across the country – and a new winter low recorded in Muonio, Lapland. Up there the mercury dipped to -40.7 degrees at 6am on Thursday, before dropping to -41 at 8am. That is colder than at any time this winter. (Sources: Yle)

Opportunities for renewables.

The cold can cause power cuts affecting especially households dependent on electricity for heating, which is still very common in rural areas. Also milder conditions with an increased number of storms cause problems to the supply of energy to the customers. Storms have caused power cuts as a result of trees falling on power lines.

Renewable energy from forests can offer a solution in those extreme conditions. Fireplaces, stoves and other wood-based heating systems often function as back-up systems and additional heating sources. Wood energy consumption per capita in Europe is highest in Finland and Sweden. In Finland, wood-based energy accounts for approximately 85 % of the total consumption of renewable energy.

The use of chopped firewood, pellets or wood chips is very common in the rural parts of Finland. Larger scale combined-heat-and-power (CHP) plants cover the heating of large cities through district heating systems. They are often based on renewables such as wood chips from nearby forests. More than half of the energy wood purchased in the third quarter of 2015 as raw material for forest chips was pruned stemwood. This was the most valuable type of energy wood; crown mass accounted for one third of energy wood sales. (Sources: Natural Resources Institute Finland)

Forest energy based heating systems are ideal when facing extreme weather conditions in the Northern Periphery and Arctic regions. The Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) is working with forest energy within the GREBE project and will deliver solutions to other regions through technology and know-how transfer.