Norway swings to importing power as domestic output falls short

OSLO, April 24 (Reuters) - Norway was a net importer of electricity in the first quarter of 2019, reversing a trend of net exports seen in the last five years, as hydropower output fell and high prices attracted wind power supplies from neighbours, regulator NVE said on Wednesday.

Despite having abundant hydropower, typically enough to power its own needs and drive exports, Norway saw its domestic production falling by nearly a fifth to 37.7 terawatt hours (TWh) in the quarter, short of its 39.8 TWh needs.

Power prices in Norway are largely dependent on the water levels of the country’s hydropower dams, which were 6.1 percent lower than normal at the start of 2019, data from the Norwegian water resources and energy directory (NVE) showed.

Total wind power generation in the Nordic region rose to a record 13.8 TWh for the three months to the end of March as new wind farms were added to the system. Sweden and Denmark generated 11.0 TWh, with Norway and Finland generating the rest.

As a result, Sweden had net power exports of 5.4 TWh. Norway imported more power than it exported for 11 of the quarter’s 13 weeks, NVE said, with its net imports totalling 2.1 TWh.

Most of Norway’s imports came from Sweden, followed by Denmark. Germany also contributed as it saw negative power prices at times, when domestic bottlenecks sent wind power produced in northern parts of the country to Norway via Denmark.

Norway’s electricity prices are also closely related to continental power prices which rose during 2018 along with the price of carbon, gas and coal, said NVE.

The first quarter’s electricity imports were the highest since 2011, when Norway had to import 6.4 TWh during an unusually cold winter, an NVE spokesman said. (Reporting by Lefteris Karagiannopoulos, Editing by Terje Solsvik and Mark Potter)