ForTheDoers Blog

In questions of energy availability, rely on hydro

Michael Vann  |  22 June 2022, 11:07

More than ever hydropower is important in the Nordics. Security of energy supply has become an increasingly pressing issue in recent months due to the war in Ukraine and the geopolitical landscape. Alternatives for oil and gas imports are sought across Europe, and countries are redrawing their energy strategies to ensure the uninterrupted availability of energy. In the Nordics, the situation is somewhat different, as we have hydropower that we can rely on together with nuclear power and increasing amounts of wind and solar – all CO2-free production forms.

Nordic hydro power

Hydropower as a key part of the energy transition

Whether we look at the short or longer term, hydropower plays a significant role in energy availability in the Nordics. In the short term, its production can be quickly adjusted to answer changes in power demand.

In the long term, hydropower balances the intermittency of wind and solar and enables increasing their share in the energy system without compromising security of supply. This makes it a key part of the energy transition. Hydropower is used to ensure the flexibility of the energy system, and to maintain grid stability. It is also a form of energy storage: water reservoirs can be used to store energy for a long time and in large quantities.

Continuously transforming hydropower

We are continuously upgrading and developing our existing hydropower assets. For instance, at the powerplant Forshuvud in Sweden we have installed used electric car batteries from Tesla and at other sites we are operating and commissioning new battery capacity. Combining hydropower with batteries means that we can further boost our contribution to grid stability by providing super-fast frequency regulation. This is becoming increasingly important when hydropower needs to facilitate an increasing amount of weather dependent production.

Digitalization is a hot topic, and this is also the case in hydropower. For us it means using data not only to optimise production to balance different needs, but also using advanced condition monitoring of our plants to enable the detection of potential issues before they have a chance to cause disruption, further securing a continuous supply of clean hydropower to the power system. This is one of many examples of how we are developing hydropower to meet future demands. Of course, we take a long-term perspective: our oldest plants have been delivering CO2-free hydropower to society for more than a century. We want to ensure that they’ll keep doing so for another 100 years by continuously developing them.

Balancing different needs

While hydropower allows for more wind and solar in the energy system, producing hydropower also impacts the river ecology. We review our environmental impacts and seek to develop mitigation measures and to find a balance between environmental improvements and the availability of CO2-free hydropower production. Last year we carried out voluntary biodiversity projects such as dam removals and improvements around our hydropower plants.

This year, we continue with our efforts related to biodiversity. We engage actively in dialogue with organisations on local, national, and international level. In Sweden, we work intensively with the national plan for hydropower and aim to achieve at modern environmental conditions. Fortum is a proud co-owner of the Vattenkraftens Miljöfond (the Hydroelectric Environmental Fund), a SEK 10 billion fund (approx. EUR 1 billion) that provides financial support towards the implementation of the national plan.

Joint team to ensure we’re fit for the future

I started in my current role as Vice President, Hydro at Fortum almost a year ago, and hydropower has been my main focus for a couple of years. I must say I feel privileged to work in such an important part of the energy sector. As part of the joint team that we established for Fortum’s and Uniper’s Nordic hydro operations, we operate and maintain 190 hydropower plants across Sweden and Finland. With this new joint team, we have committed and passionate professionals sharing knowledge and ideas to make sure that Nordic hydropower continues to serve as a secure and reliable source of energy. At the same time, we are tapping into the vast potential of digitalisation and making hydropower fit for the future.

Michael Vann

Michael Vann

Vice President, Hydro
michael [dot] vann [at] fortum [dot] com

Hydro power

Renewable and clean energy

Blog