24 March 2010: Norway leads

Last week, the Norwegian government announced that it is on track to meet its new renewables target for 2011. On the face of it, this isn’t significant – the country had only 428Mw of installed wind capacity at the end of 2009, so the contribution from wind and other ‘new renewables’ (that is, not large hydro) is not huge. However, Norway is significant on climate change and has played a major role in climate policy for many years.

Norway is a small economy, but nevertheless the world’s third largest exporter of both oil and gas. Norwegian politician Gro Harlem Brundtland was invited by the UN to lead a Commission on Environment and Development. This produced Our Common Future – usually referred to as the Brundtland Report – in 1987. This defined sustainable development as follows:

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:

  • the concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
  • the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.

Brundtland was prime minister of Norway three times, for a total of ten years. Under her leadership, Norway pioneered the use of carbon taxes. In 1996, this lead to carbon being extracted from natural gas and re-injected into saline aquifers, making Norway the world leader in CCS.

In 2007, 98% of Norwegian electricity came from hydro (see Norway – climate and energy statistics). However, rising demand for electricity means that Norway is now building more gas power stations and intends to use CCS on these, as well as retrofitting on an existing gas station.

Norwegian companies are also responsible for some exciting developments in wind technology. Turbine manufacturer Sway is building the first 10Mw offshore turbine, with finance of $23 million coming from the government (see Energy Boom: Plans Announced for World’s Largest Wind Turbine). In addition, the world’s first floating full-scale offshore wind turbine is in the North Sea, off the coast of Norway (see Physog: World’s first floating wind turbine opens in Norway).

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