Sweden Switches on Old Oil-Burning Power Plant as Electricity Prices Soar to Record Highs

Faced with record high electricity prices and a lower-than-usual wind power output, Sweden has turned to an old oil-fired power plant to keep the lights on in the southern part of the country.

The oil-burning Karlshamn station, which dates back to the early 1970s, has been running fairly regularly for about a week, according to operator Uniper.

Since the sanctions imposed following Russia's special operation in Ukraine backfired and led to higher prices and exacerbated the energy drought, the EU has been struggling to diversify its energy supplies, to the point of abandoning its sustainability goals and dusting off oil and coal power stations.

The power plant burns 70,000 liters of oil every hour in the latest instance of how the so-called “green switch” has been put on the back burner amid a historic energy crisis. While the volume may seem rather small in the context of the global oil market, it underscores an ongoing trend of consumers switching to oil and coal to generate electricity as natural gas prices soar. Both are seen as reliable sources of power, but at the same time among the most polluting methods.

“It has to do with the power situation that we have in southern Sweden today, and which the Swedish power grid managers stressed as well. When the wind conditions get worse, then this becomes extra noticeable. Then it means that the Karlshamn station will be present on the Nordic electricity exchange,” Uniper press manager Torbjörn Larsson said, as quoted by national broadcaster SVT.

According to Larsson, the oil used comes from the refinery in Lysekil run by Preem.At the same time, power prices in the southern part of the country reached an all-time high, soaring as much as 51% at Nord Pool ASA.

Southern Sweden is particularly vulnerable to low wind levels after several nuclear reactors were shut over the past few years as part of the decades-old plan envisaged by the 1980 referendum on nuclear power. Summer maintenance at some of the existing reactors raised the Karlshamn station to a vital position to meet the power demand.

Since 2021, energy prices in Europe have been growing as part of a global trend. However, following the start of Russia's special military operation to de-Nazify and demilitarize Ukraine, the West has stepped up sanctions pressure on Moscow, which has backfired spectacularly and led to an additional spike in prices for energy and food in Europe and the US. Ever since, the EU has been seeking to diversify energy imports and reduce dependence on Russia, to the point of abandoning its sustainability goals and dusting off oil and coal power stations.

To alleviate the looming crisis, numerous energy-saving measures are being tried across Europe, ranging from turning down heating temperatures and taking cold showers to switching off illumination.

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