Norway turns its back on hydropower

New projects would cause "irreversible encroachment" on the environment, says Stoltenberg

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.

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," Mr Stoltenberg said.

Norway produces virtually all of its electricity from hydropower, averaging 115 terawatt hours annually. Last year, however, Mr 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 (ENDS Daily 10 October 2000). State-owned power utility Statkraft, which was to have built the three new hydropower installations, described Mr Stoltenberg's announcement as "frustrating".

* In a related development, Norway's Nordic neighbour Denmark has just released figures showing that wind energy now contributes 13% 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% by the end of this year.

The Danish Wind Turbine Owners' Association (DV) reckons that wind power spared 4m tonnes of polluting emissions last year and generated 4,500 gigawatt hours, the equivalent of over 1.4m tonnes of coal delivered in a train 590 kilometres long.

Follow Up:
Norwegian prime minister's office, tel: +47 22 24 90 90; Statkraft, tel: +47 67 57 70 00; DV, tel: +45 33 73 03 30.

Correction: 4/1/00 Danish wind turbines contributed 13% of the country's electricity supply in 2000 and not its total energy consumption as we incorrectly reported above.

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