What Can Britain Learn From Norway’s Energy Strategy?

Ever since oil was discovered in the North Sea, both Britain and Norway have exploited the natural resource for energy supply. Indeed, since the extraction of oil began in Norwegian waters from the late sixties onwards, exports of oil and gas have become a key element of Norway’s economy, echoing the UK’s experience.   Now that oil production from the maritime reserves has peaked and concerns about global warming from fossil fuels have grown, the difference in strategies between Britain and Norway has been thrown into a starker contrast. In Britain, Norwegian ideas about green energy production and energy security are receiving ever-closer attention.

Norway remains a significant player on the world stage in terms of oil and gas production. It still turns out about 3 million barrels per day. Indeed, the Scandinavian state also boasts one of the planet’s largest coal fields, that is potentially exploitable. Nevertheless, Norway also exploits green energy production in a way that other states have yet to fully engage in.

The first country in the world to do so, Norway has operated an industrial scale carbon capture project, designed to store carbon dioxide generated at its North Sea Sleipner oilfield. Begun in 1996, the project is operated by Statoil, which is part owned by the Norwegian government. Carbon dioxide is stripped from natural gas, extracted at the site, by a process using solvents. The resulting captured carbon is then stored in a simple a saline. Carbon dioxide is a waste product of the field’s gas production which would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. Without the scheme, there would be more carbon emitted than is allowed under the regulations. Storing means that Statoil, and the Norwegian taxpayer, is therefore able to save millions of euros in the form of carbon taxes.

In terms of electrical generation, Norway boasts production that is generated almost entirely from hydro electricity. With a number of hydro electric power plants, around 135 Terawatt hours of electricity have been produced annually by water since 2005. Added to this massive figure for a renewable source of energy, Norway has thermal power stations and some wind generation, meaning that, in some years, renewable electric production can outstrip domestic demand. Excess electrical generation is normally exported to Norway’s neighbour, Denmark, via a submarine cable that can carry over 700 megawatts of energy. Furthermore, Norway is the first country where commercially generated electricity has been made using the power of tides. Launched in November 2003, a 300 kilowatt underwater turbine started generating from the sea bed near to Kvalsund, in the far north of the country.

Britain may not have all of the natural resources of Norway, or have used them up already. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that the Scandinavian state’s ability to be self reliant, in terms of energy production, is eyed enviously in Whitehall and Holyrood. Neither the UK nor Scottish parliaments prefer to be at the mercy of fluctuating oil markets and the political stability of the Middle East, when it comes to keeping the energy supplies going. A similar submarine connection to Norway’s electrical grid enjoyed by the Danes has been proposed for Britain as far back as 2003. Under the proposal, a high voltage direct current cable would link the UK’s national grid to Norway via a connector at Easington in County Durham. A similar, multi-company scheme has also been proposed that would terminate in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire.

Like the UK, Norway’s use of solar energy production lags behind the likes of Germany. Being a northern country, Norway has limited resources when it comes to solar power. However, it remains one of the globe’s most significant producers of solar grade silicon which is the crucial component of the cells that go into the production of photovoltaic panels.

Featured images:
  •  License: Royalty Free or iStock source: www.sxc.hu
  •  License: Royalty Free or iStock source: www.sxc.hu
  •  License: Royalty Free or iStock source: www.sxc.hu

Colin McDonald writes on behalf of suppliers of business electricity in the UK – Haven Power