Electricity prices in Finland plummeted into negative territory this week after the launch of a new nuclear power plant last month.
The development comes months after officials in the Nordic nation were raising the alarm over widespread energy shortages, a reality induced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Energy producers are now discussing mechanisms to reduce production as power becomes so abundant that prices venture into negative territory.
“Production is high, consumption is low, and now we are in a situation where it is not easy to adjust production,” Fingrid CEO Jukka Ruusunen said in an interview with Yle News. “Last winter, the only thing people could talk about was where to get more electricity. Now we are thinking hard about how to limit production. We have gone from one extreme to another.”
Power company TVO launched a new reactor at the Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant last month; nearly one-third of the nation’s power now comes from the facility. The electricity from the plant is sufficient to power 5.2 million apartments or charge 3.6 million electric cars, marking a significant amount of power production for Finland, which has 5.5 million residents.
Average spot electricity prices in Finland declined from $264 in December to $65 in April, according to a report from the National News. Utility companies are unable to decrease energy output through hydropower, the typical domain in which electricity production can be reduced, because of excess snowmelts.
“Operators in Finland and the surrounding areas are now monitoring the situation. If hydropower can’t be regulated, then it will probably be nuclear power next. Production that is not profitable at these prices is usually removed from the market,” Ruusunen continued. “Now there is enough electricity, and it is almost emission-free. So you can feel good about using electricity.”
Finland and other nations in the European Union abide by the goal of becoming “a climate-neutral society” by 2050 in accordance with the European Green Deal and the Paris Climate Agreement. Despite the success of nuclear power in promoting emission-free electricity, many countries are shuttering the facilities over safety concerns: Germany closed the nation’s three remaining nuclear energy plants last month, marking an end to the economic bellwether’s use of the power source even as authorities resumed coal production due to energy shortages.
“The risks of nuclear power are ultimately uncontrollable; that’s why the nuclear phaseout makes our country safer, and avoids more nuclear waste,” German Environment Minister Steffi Lemke, a member of the Green Party, said earlier this year, according to a report from German state-funded media outlet Deutsche Welle.
Other nations, such as the Netherlands and Poland, are slated to expand their nuclear systems, while Belgium is delaying a previously enacted phaseout. Some countries, on the other hand, proceeded with shutdowns of nuclear facilities despite catastrophic increases in energy prices last year: Switzerland slowed production at one nuclear power plant to avoid raising nearby river temperatures and thereby protect local fish populations.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has meanwhile proposed mechanisms to reduce “overall electricity consumption,” an initiative funded by the redistribution of profits from oil and natural gas companies.