Norway: a White Paper for the future

Norway: a White Paper for the future

Giancarlo Strocchia
After 17 years, the Oslo government presents guidelines to define the future energy strategies. More space for renewables with a special emphasis on wind power, pending Statkraft's construction, by 2020, of the largest plant in Europe

Has Europe’s largest oil & gas producer completely converted to renewables? Perhaps such a prospect is still far from being entirely realistic, but certainly browsing "the White Paper" recently published by the Norwegian government reveals the Scandinavian country’s sensitivity towards issues linked to environmental sustainability and the fight against climate change. The latest edition of the same document dates back to 1999, when the world’s energy situation was under a completely different guise. Today, a basic concept guides the entire plan: the security of supplies, the assessment of the impact that energy activities can have on the climate and on the environment and economic growth must all go hand in hand, in a process of analysis and integration, in order to ensure an efficient supply and a production of "friendly" energy in terms of the environment and the climate.

A greener and "windier" future

"We intend to ensure that the solutions that the energy market promises," claims Norwegian Energy Minister Tord Lien, "allow us to improve the flexibility of the national energy system. Our aim is to strengthen the energy cooperation between the Scandinavian countries to create a solid, modern energy distribution network. The new technologies and the use of smart management systems," says Lien,"will help to improve the future security of supplies." The White Paper introduces new rules to make the production of energy from renewable sources increasingly profitable, by increasing efficiency and simplifying authorization processes and the issuing of licenses to build hydropower plants, by defining a national framework for the development of wind energy, helping to contain contrasts and by selecting the best sites. Partly for this reason, the government has decided not to extend the incentives system, through the issuance of green certificates, beyond the deadline. The last will be issued in 2036 and long-term investments will be established by the market. The certificates system was introduced by Oslo in 2012, together with Sweden, with the aim of increasing the production of electricity from wind, hydropower and biomass sources, therefore reaching a production of 28.4 terawatt hours (TWh) per year by 2020.

New international collaborations launched

Norway’s current electricity production is 95% derived from hydropower plants; while the country has not developed, unlike neighboring Sweden and Denmark, the wind energy sector, despite its constantly wind battered coastal areas. By late 2015, there were 25 wind farms in Norway, with a total installed capacity of 873 MW and a normal annual production of 2.5 TWh compared with a total electricity production of 143.4 TWh. Meanwhile, Norwegian state-owned energy group Statkraft, decided, in February 2016, to develop a wind power plant capable of generating 1,000 MW of energy by 2020. It would be the largest onshore complex of its type ever constructed in Europe, and would boost annual production by almost 3.4 TWh. The White Paper also sets out the government’s desire to allow the national electricity transmission network operator, Statnett, to establish international cooperation and partnership relations for the development of energy distribution. For this reason, Statnett has already planned the construction, by the end of this decade, of 2 connections: the first to Germany and the second to Great Britain, therefore extending its export capacity to up to a total of 2,800 MW, thus helping to reduce surplus domestic power.

An increasingly sustainable country

As certified by the Norwegian Statistics Institute, from 2013 to 2014, the amount of renewable sources in the country has increased from 66.7% to 69.2%, 2 percentage points above the 67.5% target set. This result can also partly be explained by the fact that 2014 was a rather warm year, with a reduced consumption of energy. In 2015, the amount of renewable sources for transport was 4.8%. Moreover, since 2011, all European countries are required to certify that biofuels produced meet certain sustainability criteria. Norway has provided this documentation since 2014 and, therefore, the biofuels fraction can also be included in the steps for increasing the amount of renewable sources. The amount from renewable sources for 2015 shall be calculated during the winter of 2016/2017.