Story | 08/27/2015 11:50:00

Hydropower is superior as balancing power

The need for balancing power is increasing along with the use of renewable energy. UPM is investing in hydropower, the most effective and sustainable method of producing balancing power.

There is a lot going on at the construction site at the Harjavalta hydropower plant. Work is underway to install a new turbine, and the next step will be to refurbish the two existing turbines. This plant, run by Länsi-Suomen Voima and located on the Kokemäenjoki River, is one of the most effective in Southern Finland — and the modernisation is expected to improve its performance even further. UPM owns 51.5% of the Harjavalta plant directly and approximately 12% through its share in the PVO (Pohjolan Voima) hydropower business.

UPM is the second-largest energy producer in Finland and a major player in hydropower production. The company owns nine hydropower plants in Finland, along with three small hydro plants connected to paper mills. UPM also has hydropower facilities in Germany, Austria and the US.

Hydropower promotes sustainable development

Hydropower plays an important part in renewable electricity production in Finland. Hydropower provides substantial benefits compared to fossil energies; it causes no emissions and no noise pollution, and hydropower plants have a long life, which means that the rewards of the investment continue decades into the future.

Over the past few years, a large-scale modernisation project has been implemented at UPM's hydropower plants. The majority of the plants were originally constructed between the 1930s and 1950s. Most of the renovations are expected to be finished around 2017, when the modernisation of the Harjavalta hydropower plant is completed.

Investments in the Harjavalta plant amount to EUR 40 million, and 51.1% of this total sum constitutes UPM's largest investment in hydropower in the past few years. Half of the total investment is reserved for refurbishing the two existing turbines, while the other half will be spent on installing a new one. In the future, the new turbine will produce more balancing power for UPM's needs.

Balancing power facilitates flexibility

Balancing power is needed for balancing electricity production and consumption.

"The more energy we produce using non-adjustable methods, the more adjustable production we need as well," says Ari Henriksson, Director of Energy Generation at UPM Energy. Hydropower is the easiest method of producing balancing power.

It is impossible to store pure electricity or wind, but water can be stored in reservoirs. Hydropower plants can be started, adjusted and stopped faster than condensing power plants or nuclear plants, for example. "The turbines of a hydropower plant can be adjusted very quickly, almost at the press of a button," Henriksson explains.

Emission reduction targets increasing the need for balancing power

Europe is set to experience a substantial increase in the need for balancing power in the coming years, thanks to emission reduction targets and the growing role of renewable energy. Finland's long-term climate target is to reduce emissions by 80 to 95 percent by 2050. In order to meet this objective, emissions related to energy consumption need to be reduced, almost down to zero.

One aim is to increase Finnish wind power production to five times the current level by 2020. As wind cannot be stored, balancing power will be needed to even out the differences in production and consumption. Condensing power plants have been used for this purpose in the past, but the current objective is to reduce their numbers.

"Our capacity for balancing power will most likely be reduced even further, as our associated company Pohjolan Voima is considering shutting down two unprofitable coal-fired condensing power plants. It's important to UPM that a sufficient amount of balancing power be produced here in Finland, as this increases our self-sufficiency," Henriksson explains.

Hydropower is a sustainable method of producing balancing power for the market. At UPM, hydropower is already the main method of producing balancing power.


Helen Partti