As the third largest exporter of oil in the world, it is hardly surprising that Norway has a global reputation as a rich, oil power. But, whilst achievements within this industry are rightly admired – and even envied – it is illuminating to discover that Norway is the only industrialized nation able to meet its domestic power demand almost exclusively through another, renewable source – hydropower. In fact, the statistic according to the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) is an incredible 99%. But Norway is not about to keep its extensive experience within hydropower secret. Both the Government and leading Norwegian companies see this often abundant resource as an increasingly global opportunity.
“For many countries, and especially the developing countries, a great concern is how to secure energy supply on a national level,” former Deputy Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Anita Utseth, told the IHA World Congress On Advancing Sustainable Hydropower, more than ten years ago. “A good way to do this is to develop domestic natural resources instead of spending valuable funds on imported energy-products. Development of hydro power can be essential to achieving less dependence on importation of fuels,” she added. Today, the industry in Norway has continued to build on its reputation as a champion of hydropower, taking the industry to new areas of the globe.
An awareness of the limitations of the Earth’s resources, and specific energy crises, especially in Africa, has increased the value of hydropower. “Environmentally friendly energy production and consumption, and increasing use of renewable energy sources, are […] very high up on the international political agenda today as well as in Norwegian aid strategy,” says the NVE’s Director General, Agnar Aas (Annual Report 2007). The Government, through NORAD, is therefore supporting several projects in developing countries where the application of Norwegian hydropower expertise solves problems whilst also benefitting the environment at relatively low cost.
One major area of success has been the Hydroelectric and Multi-Purpose Regional Project at Rusumo Falls, Rwanda. At the request of NORAD, NVE carried out an extensive evaluation of the area to find out about erosion within the catchment. Despite financial constraints and lengthy delays, NVE submitted its expert hydrological research and established collaboration with the University of Rwanda for the future implementation of projects. Rusumo Falls were finally deemed suitable for hydropower applications. The potential impact on the local community could be immense.
The impressive dam at Alta shows how Norway is harnessing its natural resources to provide energy for its population – in fact Norway meets 99% of its domestic power demand through hydropower.
A Template for Regional Power Exchanges
Norway was the first country to pioneer the idea of a power stock exchange. Nord Pool, which is also the world’s largest such exchange, has a physical market accounting for around 63% of power consumption in the Nordic region, and it works across borders. Nord Pool has become a model for a number of similar exchanges in Japan, the South-East Europe region, and southern Africa, where twelve nations will be covered by the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).
These Norwegian-inspired exchanges are mutually beneficial. Torger Lien, Nord Pool’s President, believes that investing in environmental technology in developing countries can literally change the planet. “Investment in developing countries will help to reduce emissions at a lower cost than would have been the case in industrialised nations,” he said (Annual Report, 2006).
Technology for a Global Market
Thanks to a number of niche experts like HYDROENERGI kjell joa AS, Norway is now known as an important innovator of specific hydropower technology. HYDROENERGI specializes in turbines and control systems for small and medium hydro power plants. The company’s expertise has led them beyond Norway’s borders, to Italy and Turkey.
Using its former experience from operating its own power stations, HYDROENERGI now designs, produces, installs and commissions the most efficient turbines on the market. If all of the turbines are taken into account, the total output exceeds 100,000 kW. HYDROENERGI tailors projects according to customers’ needs and can deliver individual turbine components or full turnkey electro-mechanical power plant outfitting.
The Kvilldal hydropower plant is the largest in Norway, with an average annual production of 3517 GWh per year.
BKK – Further Expansion of Norwegian Hydropower Horizons
Bergen-based BKK is one of Norway’s largest power concerns and has 30 hydroelectric power plants in western Norway, such as Hellenandsfoss river power plant development, which has turned tiny Modalen into one of Norway’s richest municipalities.
BKK is also taking Norwegian hydropower abroad. An agreement with Nuuk Kraft ANS comprises of the leadership, operation and maintenance of Greenland’s first ever hydroelectric power plant. The agreement includes the transmission of power to Nuuk. The company also owns 23% of Himan Power Limited, which operates a power station in the Dolakha District of Nepal. These agreements show how the Norwegian industry excels in both consultancy for services and technology, for example for the transmission of power from the station to Nuuk itself.
There is no doubt that Norway, as one of the world’s first and most committed hydropower nations, takes a holistic approach to the globalization of hydropower. Not only are Norwegian-run power plants springing up regularly around the world, but the consultancy branches of companies such as BKK and Statkraft, and technology suppliers are also a part of the growing success. Perhaps most far-reaching are the possibilities presented by large regional power exchanges, allowing the production of renewable energy to cross borders with a degree of stability. To this end, Nord Pool is one of a series of firsts for an industry that never stops and is committed to making renewable energy more attractive and practical worldwide.