Norway Turns Its Back on Hydropower

OSLO, Norway, January 4, 2001 (ENS) - Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has created a mini-sensation in Norway by declaring in his traditional New Year's Eve national address that "the era of large-scale new hydropower development is over" and that several big hydro projects are to be abandoned.

Stoltenberg

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (Photo courtesy government of Norway)
The prime minister said construction of hydropower stations at Beiarn, Bjøllåga and Melfjord in Nordland county would be halted. The futures of several other projects are also in doubt.

"I know that this is a decision that will provoke controversy. But the benefits of these development projects are not sufficiently great to justify irreversible encroachment on the natural environment," Stoltenberg said.

Norway, one of the world's largest oil exporters, produces virtually all of its electricity for domestic use from hydropower, averaging 115 terawatt hours annually.

Last year, however, Stoltenberg's minority Labour government made clear its intention of promoting natural gas technology for electricity production, and approved the construction of two gas fired power stations at the west coast sites of Kollsnes and Kårstø.

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Dam inspection at Lake Elgsjo (Photo by Rolf Krogh courtesy Glommens og Laagens Brukseierforening)
State owned power utility Statkraft, which was to have built the three new hydropower installations, described the Prime Minister's announcement as "frustrating."

On March 17, 2000, Stoltenberg was sworn in as Norway's prime minister in the wake of an energy and environment controversy that prompted the preceding prime minister's resignation. Former Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik stepped down after losing a parliamentary vote of confidence over his attempt to prevent the construction of the two natural gas power plants.

In a related development, Norway's Nordic neighbor Denmark has just released figures showing that wind energy now contributes 13 percent of national energy consumption, the highest proportion of any country in the world. About 6,000 turbines were operating in 2000.

Further planned turbine installation is expected to take wind's proportion of all energy to 15 percent by the end of this year.

The Danish Wind Turbine Owners' Association estimates that wind power displaced four million tons of polluting emissions last year.

Danish wind turbines generated 4,500 gigawatt hours last year, the equivalent of over 1.4 million tons of coal delivered in a train 590 kilometres (366 miles) long.

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{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London. Email: envdaily@ends.co.uk}