The system meant to safeguard essential functions in society in the event of electricity shortages exhibits several weaknesses. There is a need to review the planning and improve the exchange of information, according to two researchers in a new SNS report.
Activities essential for society must function even if there is an insufficient supply of electricity. That is why the government agencies in charge have developed a special planning system: Styrel (in Swedish, short for Redirecting Electricity to Prioritized Users in Cases of Short-Term Electricity Shortages). Actors ranging from municipalities and regions to governmental agencies are included. However, interview studies indicate several deficiencies in the system, computer and systems scientist Christine Große and political scientist Pär M. Olausson argue in their new report Is There Enough Power? Swedish Risk Governance and Emergency Response Planning in Case of a Power Shortage.
“Styrel is not part of the regular crisis management system, and the latest review was postponed due to the pandemic. This means that Styrel is still based on priorities from 2014–2015. Many of the people involved in the last review no longer work in these positions, and there is often limited documentation. We see a definite lack of knowledge and continuity,” says Christine Große.
Another problem, according to the researchers, is that the lists of priorities compiled by municipalities are passed along to the county administrative boards with no information as to which objects are located along the prioritized power lines. In other words, if mistakes have been made in the municipalities, there is no way for the people working in the county administrative boards to see this in the documents. The risk of incorrect data increases as power lines get new designations, are renovated or moved. In addition, the needs in Sweden change.
“Society is constantly evolving, which should also be the case for Styrel. The system needs to change as new challenges emerge. Right now, for example, it may involve developing Swedish civil defense and adapting to Sweden joining NATO,” says Pär M. Olausson.
In order to facilitate risk and vulnerability analyses, Große and Olausson argue, Styrel should be more clearly linked to Sweden’s crisis management system. They also recommend a review of who is involved in identifying activities important for society. At the same time, the different actors need to get better at exchanging information, while there need to be clearer instructions as to which activities are to be prioritized. In addition, according to Große and Olausson, it is a good idea to review how power grid operators may collaborate in the event of having to disconnect the electricity supply for a shorter period of time to avoid major power outages.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Christine Große has a PhD in computer and systems science and works at the Risk & Crisis Research Centre, Mid Sweden University.
Pär M. Olausson is an associate professor of political science and works at the Risk & Crisis Research Centre, Mid Sweden University.