Norway promotes new approaches to energy

Arnstad publicises government effort to address climate challenge, support bioenergy

Norway's energy minister, Marit Arnstad, took the unusual step of writing a full-page article in the leading national tabloid Dagbladet yesterday, in an attempt to sell the government's energy policy, currently the subject of arduous budget negotiations in parliament, to a wider public.

The article follows the ministry's announcement on Tuesday that five bioenergy and district heating projects had been approved at a total cost of NKr17.2m (Ecu2m), a first step in a proposed 40% rise in funding next year (from NKr193m to NKr270m) for projects aimed at developing renewable energy sources while decreasing overall energy consumption.

"Leftover resources from 1998" provided an opportunity to fund several major initiatives, Ms Arnstad said in a statement. Technologies involved include heat pumps, bio-gas plants and the use of bio-pellets for domestic heating. The largest single allocation was NKr8m to a district heating project in the southern city of Kristiansand.

The ministry's statements highlight the importance attached by the government to provisions in its draft budget for 1999, submitted to parliament earlier this month, for increasing electricity taxes by NKr0.025/kWh at an average cost per household of NKr750 per year. A previous attempt at a tax increase of NKr0.029, in the revised national budget earlier this year, was defeated.

Other proposals in the new budget include tax exemptions and subsidies for windmill construction and other renewable energy projects.

Ms Arnstad's newspaper article emphasises the need for Norway to "take its share of responsibility for reducing climate change in future." The minister argues that the days of unlimited hydropower are over, and notes the government itself has even opposed new hydro development "in order to protect valuable natural habitats from further encroachment". But so voracious is the national appetite for power that "Norway during the past two years has been a net importer of energy".

A government white paper on energy policy in 1999 will "for the first time in many years give the Storting [parliament] the possibility of a comprehensive review of the challenges we face in energy policy", Ms Arnstad concludes.

Follow Up:
Norwegian energy ministry, tel: +47 22 24 90 90.

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