Despite the obligation to develop networks that was written into Finland's Electricity Market Act, power outages have not been reduced in the past decade.
A working group that was appointed by the Ministry of Trade and Industry has proposed that benchmarks should be set to improve the reliability of electricity distribution networks. The Finnish Consumer Agency supports the working group's proposal and believes that in setting benchmarks attention should be paid to individual customers' experience concerning outages and the quality of electricity.
The present standard on voltage characteristics (SFS 50160) does not meet consumers' expectations concerning the quality of electricity very well.
For example, in guide values the annual number of short-term outages may vary from several dozen to several hundred. The annual number of outages lasting for longer than three minutes may vary from less than 10 to as high as 50, depending on the area. The number of voltage drops during a year can vary from several dozen to one thousand.
In practice outages are more common in sparsely populated areas with overhead power lines than in urban areas with cables underground.
Company-by-company statistics concerning outages do not give a true picture of the inconvenience experienced by customers. Reports received by the Consumer Agency suggest that some customers suffer from short-term outages and other disturbances much more than average. In collecting customer-based figures, attention should also be paid to those who are in the worst position.
Improving the reliability of distribution networks also increases distribution costs and raises transmission prices. The Consumer Agency emphasizes that electricity bills are already a large expense especially for people who heat with electricity. Major increases in transmission prices would be problematic for them.
The timetable for measures should be sufficiently long, taking into consideration networks' service life, so that costs to consumers will remain reasonable.