Finland's energy agency says risks of power outages this winter increased

Smoke rises from the Hanasaari coal power plant in Helsinki, Finland, November 28, 2016. Picture taken November 28, 2016. Jussi Nukari/Lehtikuva/via REUTERS

HELSINKI, Dec 1 (Reuters) - The risk of short power outages has increased in Finland due to uncertainty in domestic production and foreign imports, the Finnish energy authority said on Thursday.

National grid operator Fingrid has also warned of potential power blackouts this winter, due in part to the uncertainty surrounding the start-up date of the new Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power reactor.

Adding to Finland's problem is the fact that neighbouring Sweden, a major electricity exporter, plans to switch off its biggest nuclear reactor, Oskarshamn 3, for maintenance from Dec. 9 to Dec. 18, while the Ringhals 4 reactor remains offline until Jan. 31.

"Sufficient electricity in Finland is more uncertain than before in the coming winter," the Energy Authority said in a statement.

"Several simultaneous failures in domestic production or transmission connections could lead to electricity shortages even with short notice," it said.

Finland, where the power grid operator Fingrid is currently scrambling to find ways to save electricity just like its European peers after cutting off Russian electricity, gas and oil imports.

Fingrid, which estimates peak consumption of 14,400 megawatts (MW) this winter, said in a separate statement that consumers cut power consumption by 9% in November compared with a year earlier.

Businesses and public sector players with a combined maximum flexibility capacity of around 200 MW have agreed on a voluntary basis to reduce power consumption if needed to avoid planned power cuts.

Reporting by Essi Lehto and Terje Solsvik, editing by Anna Ringstrom and Alex Richardson

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