How Sweden has profited from selling Norwegian energy back to Norway

Sweden has turned a profit buying cheap Norwegian power from the country's north and then exporting it back to southern Norway where prices are higher. 

Pictured are powerlines in Sweden.
Sweden has been making money buying cheap power from north Norway and then exporting it back to the south. Pictured are powerlines in Sweden.Photo by Axel Josefsson on Unsplash

Sweden has profited from a large disparity in energy prices between the south and the north in Norway, Norwegian public broadcaster NRK reports. 

Energy in north Norway is considerably cheaper than in the south, where price records have been broken throughout the summer. Sweden imports cheap energy from north Norway into north Sweden before moving it south and exporting it to south Norway. 

“It is often the case that power is exported from northern Norway to northern Sweden and imported from southern Sweden to southern Norway, and lately it has at least been like that,” Ann Myhrer Østenby from the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) told NRK. 

Around 80 percent of the energy exported from Norway is from the north, according to figures from the NVE. Power is much cheaper in north Norway because more is produced than can be used, while in the south, reservoirs used in hydroelectric production are extremely low.  

“People scream about exports from the south, but it is actually the northern Norwegian power that has been exported,” Tor Reier Lilleholt, energy analysis manager at Volue Insight, told NRK. 

Between January and July of this year, 4.51 Terawatt-hours (TWh), or 4.5 trillion watts, were sent from Norway to Sweden, while Sweden exported 3.67 TWh to Norway. Not all of the energy exported into Norway will have originated in the country’s north, though. 

Energy from the north is exported rather than directly transferred to parts of Norway where energy is the most expensive domestically because Norway does not have the infrastructure or capacity to move large quantities of electricity from north to south. 

Whereas Sweden has a much better energy transmission capacity than Norway, meaning it can import energy from its neighbours, transport it south and then export it back. 

Bank Nordea’s investment director Robert Næss told online publication Nettavisen earlier this year that Sweden has made billions of kroner by importing cheap electricity from north Norway and exporting it to the south.

“I arrive at a gross profit of just under 2.3 billion Norwegian kroner, and then they have to hand over around half a billion kroner of this profit to Statnett,” he estimated in May. 

If Norway were to build power lines to move power from the north to the south, rather than exporting it to Sweden, it could take up to ten years, and it isn’t clear whether it would equalise prices throughout Norway or stop its neighbours from profiting from price disparity anyway. 

“It would probably have a certain effect, but how much depends on many assumptions that are difficult to take into account. It is very complex,” Østenby said. 

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How to check which times of day you should avoid using energy in Norway to save money

Consumers in Norway are changing their energy consumption habits to try and drive down electricity bills. Here's how you can do the same.

How to check which times of day you should avoid using energy in Norway to save money

Much like everything else, electricity bills are on the rise in Norway. In a recent survey, energy bills were pointed out as the rising cost that consumers are most worried about. 

Prices are high because of low-reservoir filling levels, the war in Ukraine and soaring gas prices. Reservoirs in the southeast and southwest of Norway are at 20-year lows. Over 80 percent of Norway’s power comes from hydroelectric production. These factors combined have led to analysts warning that prices in southern Norway could rise as high as 20 kroner per kWh this winter.

High energy prices have led to consumers in Norway becoming savvier with their energy consumption habits to try and drive down rising bills, the newspaper Bergenavisen reported this week. 

Energy prices in Norway fluctuate depending on the time of day. Essentially, prices are typically highest when demand on the power network is highest. These times are typically the evening when people arrive home from work, make dinner and use more devices. The morning, when households get ready for work and school, is also a time when prices are high. 

On the other hand, prices are much lower later at night, for example. 

Due to the high prices, Norwegians have now started to plan their consumption around when prices will be lower. This means saving using power-intensive appliances like dishwashers or charging an electric car until later in the evening to try and get the best price possible. 

Fjordkraft, which powers homes nationwide, has confirmed that customers are changing their habits to get more bang for their buck.

“People are interested in how they can save money by adjusting their consumption according to price variations and by small and large power saving measures,” Jon Vaag Eikeland, communications adviser for Fjordkraft, told Bergenavisen.

Using Tuesday, September 17th, as an example, the peak price during the day will be between 8pm and 9pm. Then the price in Oslo will reach 4.7 kroner per kWh. However, between 4am and 5am, the price will be almost half the peak cost at 2.4 kroner per kilowatt hour. The difference in price means charging the car would cost half as much if you were to do it between these times. 

Knowing when prices could be lower and planning energy-intensive activities such as laundry for when prices will be lower could help you make significant savings. 

Additionally, many websites and apps that let you monitor prices will let you do so on a weekly or monthly basis rather than hour-by-hour. This will allow you to plan energy usage much further in advance and could mean you charge an electric car on a Saturday rather than a Thursday, for example. 

Spotting a particularly costly week ahead could also allow you to switch to the wood-burning stove or plan meals that don’t need a long time in the oven. 

READ MORE: Could the fireplace be a cheaper heating alternative to high energy prices in Norway?

These energy-saving measures can save those in parts of the country that receive less energy support from the government money due to lower overall prices money too. 

Where to check

Energy exchange NordPool has a price map on its website where you can check the energy price during the day, week or month ahead in your area. The advantage of this is that NordPool is the industry standard index for energy prices used by electricity firms and the media. 

Using this, you can determine when is best to use power-intensive appliances, charge an electric car or turn on the heating. 

Currently, the price is listed in megawatts, so you will need to divide this price by 1,000 to get the price you will pay hourly. 

Norwegian newspaper VG has a live page which allows you to compare energy prices throughout Norway. A key advantage to this page is that it will list the cost of electricity before and after government support is included in the price. This will help you map out future bills if you multiple the price by the consumption on the last energy bill you received. 

You also won’t be required to divide megawatts into kilowatts. The newspaper’s live page also allows you to select your municipality rather than figure out which energy region your home falls into on the NordPool map.  

Checking energy prices on the go is also an option. There are plenty of apps which let customers see when energy prices in Norway will be highest. 

The apps for Tibber, Fjordkraft, Wattn and Elvia are all options, as is the strømpriser app, which offers a more simplistic view. Some of these apps can be hooked up to smart devices to help you manage consumption when prices are high- even when you aren’t home.