Norway and the road towards renewable energy

Photo: Statkraft
Reinsforsen hydropower plant in the Rana River, near Mo i Rana.

Linn Chloe Hagstrøm
The Norwegian American

During the past two years, more than one in 10 oil industry jobs disappeared from the Norwegian continental shelf, according to VG. The Norwegian national economy has been in decline and unemployment has risen (with a solid hike in western Norway). This fall on September 11, the Norwegian parliamentary election will take place. I want to see a stronger focus on producing energy from natural resources, creating more jobs that work towards more environmentally friendly solutions in our energy production. Norway is hitting the ground running with its major success in hydropower.

Climate change is well underway, and we must seek to protect our environment through finding better and more effective solutions for energy production. We got started through improving our strategies for recycling and imposing taxes on goods and services that have high emissions, and we need to continue exploring ways to produce energy in a more environmentally friendly manner.

According to Statkraft, an international renewable energy producer based in Norway, 99 percent of all power generation on inland Norway comes from hydropower. This is great news, as hydropower has the lowest greenhouse gas emissions, the highest efficiency, and the longest life of all power generation techniques. It does not contribute to air pollution, which is quite significant since one of our greatest environmental challenges is the stabilization of greenhouse gases.

A benefit to hydropower is that energy can be produced when it is windy and not very sunny. As a “Bergenser” I do not foresee Norway using solar power very much, at least not in these parts of the country. Yet we can still be at the forefront of creating better ways to utilize this valuable energy resource. Tesla is expanding the market for solar power in multiple sectors such as solar panel roofs and electric cars, and Norwegians should be inspired to follow suit.

Wind is another clean, renewable resource. Our neighbor Denmark has been highly successful in producing electricity through wind power. In 2015, Danish wind turbines set a global record in wind power production. That year, wind power accounted for 42.1% of the total power consumption in Denmark, according to newspaper E24. Norway has huge wind resources that are hardly taken advantage of. Norwegians have created 400 MW of wind power, Swedes more than 1500 MW, and Danes closer to 3500 MW (Statkraft). Thus, we have opportunities in pre-existing technologies as well as investing in the future through exploring new innovations in the field of renewable energy.

Fossil fuels have been central in Norway’s ascension to power starting in the 1970s leading up to today, yet we all know the limitations of this industry. Since 2014, more than 40,000 jobs have disappeared in the oil industry. Oil production on the Norwegian continental shelf has decreased while costs have increased and investments in the oil and gas sector have heavily declined. Investments in renewable energy rather than oil and gas could propel the movement towards an even greener Norway.

Hydropower is renewable and pollution-free with minimal greenhouse gas emissions. While this is great, constructing hydropower plants also requires major interference in nature, such as dammed rivers, altered water supply, and the construction of roads and power lines. The interventions take their toll on the landscape and affect fishing and biodiversity. Processes such as these create large wounds in an otherwise lush waterway with many tall waterfalls, streams, and lakes. Yet regulation of waterways can be positive as it can contribute to reduced flooding and provide the basis for drainage of water used for irrigation. The overall environmental impact means that continued hydropower development remains controversial. According to The Guardian, Norway is good at small hydro development, meaning plants with a capacity of ten MW or less that typically use low head and run-of-the-river technologies. Rather than large-scale dams, pursuing lower impact projects can continue to make a difference while avoiding the worst of the environmental consequences.

During the Climate Summit in Paris last year, Norway set climate goals for 2030. If we are to commit to the promise of achieving a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared with the 1990 level, we must dedicate time and resources to this cause. Climate change threatens all peoples and we have to step up our game to combat the many environmental issues surfacing. The Paris Climate Agreement is essential for international cooperation in combating climate change and Norway should be at the frontline. Norwegian hydropower is a great start, but we must continue the exploration of other options within renewable low-emission technologies to get that home run.

Linn Chloe Hagstrøm is a Bergen-based contributing editor, barista, and alumna from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash. She is passionate about social science, feminism, volleyball, and her mini schnoodle.

This article originally appeared in the May 19, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.