With 30 per cent of Western Europe's hydroelectric power production, Norway is Europe's largest and the world's sixth largest producer of hydropower.
The country's mountainous terrain, punctuated by numerous lakes and waterfalls, provides the ideal conditions for hydropower generation, while a cold climate and power-intensive industry make Norway's 4.5 million citizens the world's highest per capita users of electricity. Norwegian consultancy companies, contractors, research institutes and equipment suppliers possess over a century of experience in hydropower development. Norwegian firms are active around the globe, offering expertise for every phase of development for projects of all sizes, from initial planning and implementation of huge hydropower schemes to rehabilitation of existing facilities.
Modern, emission-free hydropower is one of the most environment-friendly methods of producing electricity, yet schemes must be executed carefully to prevent ecological damage. Norwegian consultancy firms specialize in implementing goal-oriented planning procedures, including environmental impact assessment, in order to satisfy the demands of stakeholders and end-users, adhere to national and multinational regulations, and determine the correct type of infrastructure needed. Norwegians place great emphasis on identifying effective measures to conserve terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, adapting cost-efficient techniques to specific ecological conditions and natural processes, and setting strict limits on the construction of potentially disfiguring process infrastructure such as roads and buildings. Norwegian designers and contractors are internationally renowned for their innovative designs and techniques for constructing effective, cost-efficient dams, reservoir terraces, underground plants and hydropower tunnels, which do not lead to topographical disruption and water pollution. Norway's hydropower equipment manufacturers are world leaders in producing high-head turbines as well as monitoring systems designed to handle remote operations. They also produce transmission equipment that can withstand extreme climatic conditions and blend harmoniously with the landscape.
Norwegian firms have provided consultancy and research services to projects in over 40 countries. Sharing their extensive knowledge, they have helped to create national strategies and legal frameworks for the power industry; evaluate energy systems for optimal construction and operation; promote energy efficiency; organize institutional and manpower development; evaluate hydropower plants and transmission systems technically, economically and environmentally; ascertain project feasibility; carry out cost/risk analyses; and aid in water management, flood studies, safety evaluation and emergency planning, as well as in rural electrification and power distribution.
Norwegian companies have gained great insight into the ways in which plant construction in one country can have a dramatic impact on the environment, wildlife, irrigation systems, drinking water supplies or navigation channels of its neighbours downstream. In order to anticipate potential conflicts between planned projects, Norwegian firms use domestically designed software to simulate river conditions, and are currently studying the effects of multiple undertakings on Africa's 3,000-km-long Zabezi River, for which eight countries have planned projects.
In the present era of privatization and globalization, projects are increasingly multinational and countries are choosing to enter into turnkey or BOT (Build, Operate and Transfer) contracts to secure much-needed hydropower schemes. Norwegian firms participate in and often take the lead in international joint ventures and consortia. A number of Norwegian companies, including Statkraft SF, the state-owned Norwegian power company, are key BOT players involved in ongoing projects in countries as diverse as Nepal and Tanzania. Norwegian firms also have many years of experience in finding optimal funding in cooperation with the World Bank, the regional development banks, commercial banks, development cooperation agencies and international finance institutions, while the Norwegian export credit agency, Eksportfinans, is a leading supplier of structured, low-interest financing for hydropower schemes and equipment. The Norwegian power industry has extensive experience in hydropower development, the patience to establish long-term local cooperation and international partnerships, and the ability to secure often-complex project financing, making it a competitive player in the hydropower arena, also in future.