Enlightenment in Norway’s Oil-Shadow? Some notions on bioenergy development in Norway and impressions from the Inland Region.

21.11.2012 at 14:38

Moritz Albrecht

In the case of Norway, first of all, it could be asked: why should they think about bioenergy development at all? With more than 95% of their electricity production based on own hydropower stations, thus a renewable source, and most households and industries largely based on direct electricity usage this evolves to become a tricky question for many involved actors as well as for the Norwegian society.

Then of course, the Norwegian transport sector as the largest single polluter (not accounting for the millions of barrels of oil and natural gas for export extracted from the North Sea) could have been an interesting direction to foster local biofuels! However, the efforts of pioneers in Norwegian biodiesel production were more or less annihilated by the decision to introduce taxes on these biofuels same to fossil fuels in 2008.

So where does that leave room or motivation for bioenergy development in Norway, taken into consideration that Norway, by its EFTA membership adheres to the EU renewable energy directive (RED) with its targets to reduce CO2 output and to secure energy supply (Norway’s national target comprises a rise of 9.5% to 67.5% of Renewables by 2020).

If not liquid biofuels, the best known use for bioenergy is heat distribution, a realm currently dominated by direct electricity in Norway. So now some might think, wouldn’t the vast amounts of hydro powered electricity be better used elsewhere than heating houses, but for instance in transport or for export to replace fossil fuels elsewhere (e.g. replacing German or Polish coal power stations)? Climate change is still a global issue calling for transnational solutions! Specifically in Norway’s Inland region (consisting of the counties of Oppland & Hedmark), a largely rural and forested area cut off from the oil and gas production facilities present in the coastal regions, there are many proponents of bioenergy who I assume would agree with this.

Thus, while there seems to be a reason, or probably rather many to develop bioenergy in Norway as well, one might ask: what is the Norwegian government’s policy, and what are the perceptions of actors involved with bioenergy development in the Inland Region on this policy. Support for bioenergy development can be found in many public documents, such as national climate or planning reports (e.g. Strategi for økt utbygging av bioenergi 2008, Norsk klimapolitikk 2012,…) and the Norwegian government likes to see itself at the forefront of battling climate change on a global scale (e.g. Norsk klimapolitikk 2012). However, concerning the local development in Norway, also in regard to small and medium size bioenergy projects, the perception seems more that the Norwegian government is better in delivering big speeches than in delivering the practical policy solutions to achieve the aims it proclaims!

Notwithstanding these negative perceptions, the government has certain support schemes, yet the overall package seems not sufficient. So, while development of bioenergy is nonetheless increasing, motivation and support appears to be residing largely at the local level. However, while some credit for the currently slow development of bioenergy (in the eyes of bioenergy proponents) might be attributed to today’s politicians, and while some of its positive stories seem to be locally driven, I regard it of utmost importance to integrate a more complex view to understand governance processes in Norway.

Or is it really just the oil and gas money under the auspices of the responsible ministries, so either climate or kroner, what prevents a faster development of bioenergy such as in Sweden and Finland?



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Moritz Albrecht

Moritz Albrecht


Blog written by Moritz Albrecht in relation to his research topics on transnational bioenergy governance.

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