Norway’s climate protection is considered exemplary. A new oil field is currently being developed off the coast. Does that go together?
Norway is already well advanced on the way to becoming a climate neutral society. The 5.4 million inhabitants of the country obtain 95 percent of their energy from hydropower. About 1,600 hydropower plants are distributed over the country, which at 385,000 square km is only slightly larger than Germany. Around 3.5 per cent of the electricity comes from wind power. There is plenty of wind – especially at sea off the coast. Can a country that is so wealthy in terms of natural conditions serve as a model for the energy transition? It can. Because Norway is firmly integrated into the European energy network.
Norway’s climate goals are not as ambitious as those of the EU. By 2050, the Oslo government aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 80 to 95 percent compared to 1990 levels, while the EU aims to be climate neutral at the same time. Nevertheless, the country is advancing the energy transition, for example, the government is promoting electric mobility with tax breaks and subsidies. That goes down well. In 2019, almost every second newly registered car was electrically powered. From 2025, only emission-free cars are to be registered.
In addition, the government is strengthening local public transport – and making it increasingly electric. Since 2015, fewer and fewer cars have been driving in Oslo. Buses and trains are largely powered by renewable energies. Local public transport should be emission-free from 2028. Local public transport ships should also run electrically. Starting next year, five new electric ferries for 140 passengers each will go into operation on the Oslofjord. From 2026, all ferries are to be powered electrically.
Where does the electricity come from?
The demand for electricity will increase. Christer Gilje, spokesman for the Norwegian state-owned network operator Statnett, says there is a public agreement that demand will be met from renewable sources . “But there are discussions about how that should be done.”
“The semi-state energy company Equinor – formerly Statoil and primarily active in the field of oil and gas production – wants to invest ten billion euros in wind and solar systems as well as in carbon-reducing technology by 2025.”
Along with water, wind is the key resource for Norway’s future energy production. The semi-state energy company Equinor – formerly Statoil and primarily active in the field of oil and gas production – wants to invest ten billion euros in wind and solar systems as well as in carbon-reducing technology by 2025. In addition to several international investments in wind farms in the North and Baltic Seas, floating offshore systems will become more and more important in the future, says Bjarne Lauritz Bull-Berg, Country Manager of Equinor in Germany. They can also be used to take advantage of the strong wind on the high seas. Equinor’s endeavors are largely international. But they also benefit the electricity market in Norway.\
The future electricity demand in Norway will also be covered by energy from wind turbines from the international market. “The exchange of electricity between the countries makes it easier for everyone to produce and use more green and renewable energy,” says Statnett spokesman Gilje.
“The future electricity demand in Norway will also be covered by energy from wind turbines from the international market.”
The submarine cable project NordLink plays a special role. It connects the electricity grids of Norway and Germany through the North Sea and has a capacity of 1.4 gigawatts. NordLink is maintained by Statnett and the network operator TenneT. It will go into operation at the end of 2020. Gilje says the cable serves as a compensation line for security of supply. “During periods with a lot of wind power in Germany, Norway can import electricity at a lower price than it would cost to produce in the country.” When there is little wind, Germany imports electricity from Norway’s hydropower.
New oil production
How does it fit into the picture that Equinor has been exploiting the Johan Sverdrup oil field off the coast since the beginning of the year? Prime Minister Erna Solberg said at the opening that Norway’s oil industry will continue for decades to come. Most of the Johan Sverdrup oil is exported, but its combustion still releases climate-damaging CO2. At least Equinor makes the funding as climate-friendly as possible. “We have been planning for this since 2012,” says Bull-Berg. Now the conveyor systems are supplied with renewable electricity from the mainland. This could significantly reduce CO2 emissions, says Bull-Berg. In the Johan Sverdrup field, emissions are 0.5 kilograms of CO2 per barrel of oil. The global average is 16 kilograms.
Equinor and the state receive additional financial resources through oil exports. But in the long term, oil will no longer play a major role for Norway, says Bull-Berg. “Fossil fuels are gradually being replaced by CO2-neutral or renewable energies.” In the energy sector, CO2-free hydrogen is becoming increasingly important. It can be made from natural gas if the released carbon dioxide is separated and stored. Equinor’s solution: liquefy the CO2 and bring it into formations under the sea floor. The process is called “Carbon Capture and Offshore Storage” (CCOS). This way, CO2 from other countries could also be stored – there are several interested parties.