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Clean air, clean water, clean power

The United Nations Development Programme says about one billion people – one in six of us – cannot get to safe drinking water. The thirst for water is up due to population growth, as are the demands for electric power and a clean environment. In these heady times of commercial growth, water, power and other poverty alleviation projects are increasingly about a healthy rate of development. For growing economies in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and South America, the fight pits progress against pollution. The call for allies produces Norwegian experts.

Norwegian companies specializing in environmental protection now number well over 500, according to a survey by southwest Norway’s Rogaland Research. Hundreds more are clustered in the power industry, including dozens of consultancies. The products and services offered are backed by seasoned water and power project managers and financial facilitators.


One-third of the environmental technology companies export equipment to handle or transform waste, scrub emissions or otherwise measure, analyze or monitor. Combined with their exported expertise, these companies were entrusted with an estimated NOK 5 billion in project work for 2005. Answering the call to go where they’re needed, Norwegian power project consultants and their environmental technology counterparts are embarked on trade and development missions around the world. With new micro- and macro-financing schemes behind them, they are networked and finding new partners in emerging economies.



The local community gets power from the Khimi Khola hydropower project, the largest private power plant in Nepal. Norwegian companies and authorities have supported the development of the project for a number of years.

© Norad/Bjørnulf Remme


Hydropower Heirs
Norwegian dam builders, meanwhile, have had to relocate: Thousands of mountain lakes and watercourses in Norway were long ago turned into abundant, cheap, clean power bought and sold on the Nordpool power exchange, the world’s first.


Meanwhile, hiking Norwegians can get an educated guess about the size of their electricity bills by gazing at water levels in any of the alpine reservoirs overseen by the Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE), which also oversees a NOK 270 million budget for developing world water and energy projects. On offer is the expertise that created Norway’s reliable hydropower.


One of the first trade and development destinations became Nepal – a country reminiscent of Norway with regards to nature – and the site of a hydropower project at Khimti Khola which has been praised for concessions to the local ecosystem. Norwegian equipment suppliers; Europe’s leading hydropower company, Statkraft; and Norfund – the Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries – supported the project.


The Khimti Khola spirit is nurtured at home in Norway, where a host of environmental agencies ensure energy projects are “green”. Today, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) is busy transferring research to a laboratory in Nepal regarding sediment hydraulics and the modelling and design of desilting basins. NTNU recently launched a Master of Science programme in Electric Power Transmission and Distribution at Nepal’s Katmandu University.   


Projects to Learn By
Norwegians are no doubt among the most seasoned bearers of hydropower knowledge. They’ve safeguarded 390 rivers with their own National Plan for the Protection of Water Courses, a societal pact over a century old. The UN promptly called on Norway to prepare international guidelines for hydropower development, and Norwegian experience is much in demand. In Mozambique, for example, Norwegian assistance is training technicians and administrators of the National Directorate of Energy while providing over NOK 200 million to build transmission infrastructure for rural electrification. Similar training work was conducted in Bhutan by the NVE in partnership with the Bhutan Directorate of Energy. Ministry of Natural Resources personnel in the newly independent Timor-Leste have also been brought up to speed on their resources.


In Vietnam, development agency Norad, water resources regulator NVE and hydropower consultancy SWECO Grøner are wrapping up a National Hydropower Plan which has been in the works for seven years. Electricity of Vietnam is the client, while the Ministry of Natural Resources of Vietnam is drawing up a licensing plan for hydro projects with NVE help.


One of the largest engineering consultancies, Norconsult, has had a hand in all of the planning and execution aspects of many an international project. While just coming off a job revamping Tanzania’s Kidatu hydropower station, it’s also involved in a long-term study of the Zhambezi River for the Mphanda Nkuwa project.

For the Nile River, Norwegian help setting up clean hydropower is taking shape in the Nile Basin Initiative, where Norad and NVE are preparing an offer of assistance detailing how Norway can help the study of hydropower potential along the river.


For SN Power – 50/50 owned by Statkraft and Norad – joint ventures with Indian utility LNJ Bhilwara include two, large run-of-river plants in one of the world’s largest electricity markets. Malana started producing electricity in 2003, while the larger, $230-million Allain Duhangan will start generating 192 MW of power in 2008. Power from both of these Kullu Valley developments will electrify northern India. At Malana, Norwegian siphon-suction technology introduced in 2006 removed in just a few weeks the equivalent of 10,000 truckloads of silt while turbines turned at full tilt.



Norwegian authorities have provided financial support for the rehabilitation and expansion of the Owen Falls hydropower project in Uganda.

© Norad/Marianne Rønnevig  


Clearing the Air
Under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), there are other ways to earn. One income earner in Chile – the 155-megawatt run-of-river hydro project, Hidroeletrica La Higuera – will be managed 50/50 by Norwegian SN Power and Pacific Hydro of Australia. It is Chile’s first hydropower project.


Citing the CDM, China is emphasizing sustainable development above pure growth. Renewable energy projects to harness the wind, the sun or capture methane for power are Chinese priorities.
Such renewable energies have become Norwegian specialties. One reason Norway is undergoing a renaissance in gas-fired power while still hoping to meet its Kyoto emissions reductions targets is because of ceramic membranes which absorb carbon dioxide at power plants fired by natural gas. Political winds in Norway have determined that all future gas-fired power must be scrubbed of carbon, and as Norway Exports went to press, the country’s biggest energy company, Statoil, announced plans to build a combined 630-megawatt heat-and-power plant in western Norway. A condition set by the Pollution Control Authority is that it captures and stores all of its carbon emissions from 2014.


Pollution Control
Clean air in Norway is presided over by the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority (SFT), an agency of the Ministry of the Environment. Its staff advises governmental bodies and helps to ensure that projects do not harm the natural surroundings beyond nature’s ability to heal itself.


In Norway, SFT experts and advisors oversee zero emissions efforts, chemical handling and the environmental impact of energy production. Abroad, the focus is helping nations protect their natural inheritance, as in Botswana and Zambia, where efforts to define and enforce industrial pollution controls have met with palpable success.


Another Norwegian clean air player is the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU), which has set up an office in Katowice, Poland and has helped equip officials with the right technology. NILU boasts the beginnings of an air quality management system, or AirQUIS, with potential benefits for Polish air quality.


Green Trade Teams
From clean power to clean air and water, industry grouping Entech is one of many heeding the call to reach out to growing economies – especially in China and Eastern Europe. This network of 23 companies have made an office in China’s largest city, Chongqing, a goal during a time when many a Chinese mayor is hosting delegations of technologists promising to help clean the country’s air and water.


Chongqing’s Environmental Protection Bureau, an expanding Chinese Environmental Protection Administration and Entech have agreed to install Norwegian clean air and clean water technologies worth some NOK 30 million.


Commercial network GreenPartner groups the interests of 35 Norwegian companies keen to help China install wastewater treatment, recycle garbage and clean the air ahead of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Among the GreenPartner offerings is an emissions-free Smart Car from Miljøbil Grenland.


New Ideas
A new Renewable Energy Law entered into force in China in 2006, and one of the early signs of change has agricultural waste forming the basis for a biomass industry, rather than be dumped or burned in the open. Norwegian companies like Cambi are keen to help make use of organic waste with treatment systems that also maximize energy production. Such technology can rapidly shorten biomass planning in China with energy generation and sales onto the national grid. Moreover, China plans to produce 15 percent of its energy via renewable energy, and biomass and biofuels have been singled out by officials.


Research institute SINTEF has long automated and refined older energy technologies to make them environmentally responsive. The institute’s Energy Research programme is embarked on a NOK 250 million research assignment to step up the performance of biomass and biofuel plants.



Norwegian Institute for Air Research scientists Karol Kuc and Anna Gludek studying modelling charts graphing air pollution in the city of Katowice, Poland. 

© Norwegian Institute for Air Research


Europe’s Green Dawn
GreenPartner and Entech are making a splash in Eastern Europe, where one member company, Biovac, has exported over 500 wastewater treatment plants, many finding their way into new European Union (EU) countries.


A funding drive by countries of the European Economic Area aimed at integrating new EU lands will help beef up green practices among the 10 new entrants. Norwegian lending for clean water, air and power – over !1 billion – rivals similar EU funding to curb the environmental trauma caused by failing Soviet-era infrastructure. Poland-based companies and projects stand to gain 50 percent of the allotments, many via partnerships with Norwegian outfits.


The goal is more companies like Poland-based ENER-G Polska, which, with its Norwegian parent company ENERGOS, evolved gas power from landfill. The result is renewable energy and measurable cuts in methane emissions.


Clean Water
Polish environmental players have been quick to partner with like-minded Norwegians on managing Poland’s biodiversity and water resources. Cooperation between Polish consultancy Geomor and the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) produced environmental modelling and real-time, flood-decision support systems for Poland’s watersheds.


In the Polish countryside, Norwegian outfit Cambi has delivered sludge treatment and a biogas plant to Bydgoszcz, where town and country waste will become electricity, heat and fertilizer.


In China, where Beijing announced plans to spend $41.5 billion by 2010 on sewage treatment for its cities, Norwegian firms see a chance to show what their environmental technology and products can do. From central Norway, industry body Green City Norway hopes to partner with Chinese towns keen to counter the ill effects of rapid industrial growth with renewable energy and waste processing. A delegation from Telemark County Council visited central China in 2005, and in May 2006, officials from water-rich Hubei Province in China visited fabled Telemark. In the end, an agreement was reached to transfer Norwegian technology that will help cleanse the mighty Han River.


Managing the Possible
With one-fifth of the world’s population but only seven percent of its water supply, China has sought Norwegian help as it moves water and power into its arid north. Norwegian engineering help at the $22.5 billion Three Gorges dam was just the beginning. In June 2006, Innovation Norway arranged a matchmaking conference in Beijing and Chongqing for Norwegian environmental technology firms. A year earlier, the mayor of Chongqing received a delegation that included the Norwegian Minister of the Environment. Thereafter, NTNU and SINTEF’s work evaluating the 6,000-kilometre Yangtze River forged a bond between central Norway and Chongqing, resulting in student exchanges and a promise to mobilize Norwegian technology to clean up the 25 million tonnes of waste flushing into the river and depriving millions of citizens the right to clean drinking water.


The Facilitators
To back up Norwegian support, Development Minister Erik Solheim and Environment Minister Helen Bjørnøy visited China to pledge technology and professional support. Norwegian firms will strive to eliminate mercury and persistent organic toxins, while authorities look for ways to help via the environmentalist China Council. Backing up the politics are enabling loans to foreign banks from Exportfinans, the Norwegian government’s export financing arm.


Together with UN and EEA mechanisms, the funding picture for Norwegian input into clean energy, clean air and clean water projects has never looked so good.



Sixteen of the twenty most polluted cities in the world are located in China. The Norwegian Pollution Control Authority is cooperating with local environmental officials in the city shown here, Zunyi in western China, in order to support environmental management and cleaner production.

© Norad/Gunnar Zachrise

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