Several flaws in the system to prioritize electricity

If the electricity is not sufficient, the planning system Board must determine which businesses will receive power and which can be disconnected. But there are several shortcomings, according to a new study.

The idea with the Board is that the priorities should already be made when the electricity shortage becomes a fact. Municipalities, regions and central authorities participate in the Board’s work and must jointly establish the plan.

But in one new SNS report two researchers from Mittuniversitetet point out that the system has several weaknesses. Among other things, the work is vulnerable at the municipalities.

– Those who were involved in the review are in many cases no longer working and the documentation is often limited. We see an obvious lack of knowledge and continuity, says Christine Große, one of the two researchers who have carried out the study.

Pär M Olausson and Chrisitine Große. Photo: Linda Nohrstedt

Different ranking in different regions

Control is the very last measure to take if the electricity is not enough. Subscribers are then forcibly disconnected from the electricity system. This is done at the request of the grid owner Svenska kraftnät to avoid extensive power outages.

In the regulation on the Board, there are different priority classes for the business. Electricity users who are of great importance to life and health and the functionality of society must be prioritized first. Dwellings and ordinary households end up at the bottom of the list.

But in practice, it is not so easy to prioritize between different activities, according to the researchers. This has led to different businesses being ranked in different ways in different regions.

High risk of error

It is the municipalities that must identify which activities within their specific geographic area should be prioritized in a shortage situation. The municipalities must draw up a list of ranked power lines which is then sent to the county administrative board. At the county administrative board, everything must be compiled for the county and any conflicts between lines that cross municipal and regional borders must be resolved.

It is also the county administrations that must finally determine the ranking for the power lines and send the information to Svenska kraftnät and the power grid companies.

According to the two researchers from Mittuniversitetet, there is a great risk of errors in the transfer of information, above all between municipalities and county administrative boards. Namely, the lists only contain information about the ranking of the individual power lines. It is not clear which businesses are located along the line. This means that a possible mistake that has been made in the municipality cannot be detected in the documents by employees of the county board.

“How shall we do”

The study is based on 66 interviews with employees at municipalities, county boards and electricity grid companies and was conducted in 2015–2018. The report was presented on 25 January at a seminar in Stockholm.

Among others, Jonna Ahlberg from Höganäs municipality took part there, who raised the problem of identifying which private actors exist within the municipality and the difficulty of prioritizing between them.

– What should we do to avoid creating unhealthy competition? Do we have to prioritize all grocery stores, for example, she said.

Jonna Ahlberg, Höganäs Municipality, and Cecilia Selin, County Administrative Board in Skåne. Photo: Linda Nohrstedt

Another problem that the researchers point to is that the Board does not keep up with the development of the electricity system. Power lines can be renamed, renewed or rerouted. This makes it difficult for the municipalities to take responsibility in the event of a crisis, the researchers write in the report. “The municipality cannot be sure either that the electricity line that was once prioritized has retained its priority throughout the entire planning system or that it continues to supply the object in question with electricity.”

The risk has increased

The Styrel planning system was developed between 2004 and 2011 and has never been tested in practice. Manual disconnection has never been done due to power shortages in Sweden before. But now the risk has increased. Swedish power grid has upgraded its assessment from low to real risk during the winter of 2022/2023.

Priorities within the Board must be made every four years and have so far been made twice, in 2010–2011 and 2014–2015. A third round would have been done in 2019–2021 but was postponed to 2023, mainly due to the corona pandemic.

– Therefore, the Board is still based on priorities from 2014 and 2015, says Christine Große.