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Powering up a new energy programme

Scheduled to conclude in 2012, the RENERGI programme has been administered under the Research Council’s Large-scale Programme initiative. Evaluations of the programme’s results after nearly 10 years of activity have been so positive that the Research Council Executive Board has decided to launch a new large-scale programme on energy research.

“Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time,” asserts Arvid Hallén, Director General of the Research Council of Norway. “We are fully aware of this, and we take our international responsibility seriously; thus Norway must continue to invest in developing solutions for the future in this field. And this is where I believe the Research Council’s energy programme plays a vital role.”

Photo: Sverre Jarild 

Programme coordinator Ane Torvanger Brunvoll has previously worked for the Norwegian high-profile environmental foundation Bellona and as department manager for renewable energy at the consulting firm Sweco. (Photo: Sverre Jarild)


Energi21 lays the foundation for R&D

Some significant changes have occurred since the RENERGI programme was established in 2004, not least the 2008 launch of Energi21 – the National Strategy for Research, Development, Demonstration and Commercialisation of New Energy Technology. The strategy report recommended that the Norwegian Government invest in energy research, particularly in six thematic and technology areas:

  • Solar cells
  • Offshore wind power
  • Balance power
  • Carbon capture and storage (CCS)
  • Utilisation of waste heat and low-grade heat
  • Developing smart grids

“The Energi21 strategy lays out important guiding principles for priorities under the new programme,” says Special Adviser Ane Torvanger Brunvoll, programme coordinator for the new programme. Her previous experience includes working for the Norwegian high-profile environmental foundation Bellona and as department manager for renewable energy at the consulting firm Sweco.

“Energy is the foundation for the growth and wealth we see in the world today. But if we are to meet our climate targets,” she stresses, “we must succeed in restructuring the current energy system.”

Dialogue with research players

When planning a large-scale programme, it is essential to obtain input from those who will be applying for funding. So last autumn, Ms Brunvoll and her colleagues collaborated with the University of Tromsø, University of Oslo, University of Bergen and Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) on dialogue meetings about the Research Council’s new energy research initiative.

“We used these meetings to seek the advice of research players around the country on what the new energy programme should comprise. While the Energi21 strategy is limited to stationary energy, the new programme must also address the challenges related to transport energy. In addition, the programme will be inheriting a portfolio that includes social science-related research as well as projects on energy market policy.”

“The signals we have received – at the dialogue meetings, the Government’s recent energy report and the white paper on Norwegian climate policy – all indicate that we also need to place more emphasis on raising energy efficiency and on bioenergy than the Energi21 strategy does,” explains Ms Brunvoll.

Photo: Atle Abelsen The work programme committee. (Photo: Atle Abelsen)

Seamless transition expected

The Research Council is working to ensure a smooth handover from the RENERGI programme. The high level of research activity will be maintained throughout the entire process, with regular start-up of new projects.

A call for proposals for Innovation Projects for the Industrial Sector will be issued in June 2012, with an October application deadline. The earliest date for project start-up will be 1 January 2013. Calls for proposals for both Knowledge-building Projects for Industry and Researcher Projects will be issued near year’s end, with an application deadline of February 2013. These calls are for projects with start-up from summer 2013.

There are two planning phases for the new energy research programme: first, the work programme committee has drawn up a preliminary work programme to provide the basis for the programme’s first funding announcement, to be published in June 2012. Then, in autumn 2012, the RENERGI programme board will pass the baton to the new programme board, which will develop the draft and finalise the work programme for the coming 10-year period.

Important input

Since the launch of the RENERGI programme a decade ago, the Research Council has established the scheme for Centres for Environment-friendly Energy Research (FME). These centres form national hubs in a number of areas of environment-friendly energy research and compete in the international arena.

“Some players feel that since two FME centres have been established for offshore wind R&D, for instance, the new programme needn’t have any wind-energy projects at all in its portfolio,” says Ms Brunvoll. “Yet wind energy is a very exciting technological field for Norway in the coming years. The new programme must be an open, competitive arena where aspiring young innovators and established research players on the FME 'national team' can compete for funding on an equal footing. I hope many kinds of researchers take advantage of the opportunity!” she states.

Work programme underway 

The members of the committee preparing the new work programme represent a wide range of scientific expertise in the energy sector as well as across the entire innovation chain, from basic research to commercialisation. Heading the work programme committee is Birte Holst Jørgensen, currently a professor at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU).

Professor Holst Jørgensen urges the Research Council to take a bolder approach with the new programme than it did during the RENERGI era.
The committee recommends that the new programme be targeted towards developing outstanding new knowledge and solutions in four areas:

  • Ensuring Norway’s security of supply amidst increasing integration and internationalisation of the energy system. Key elements of security of supply include good energy management, reliable energy production, and efficient consumption and transmission of energy. The energy system must be resilient and function smoothly despite challenging external conditions such as climate change, changing patterns of production and consumption, and other societal changes.
  • Achieving sustainable utilisation and consumption of Norway’s renewable energy resources through cost-effective exploitation: Ensure that energy is consumed properly and that the proper energy is consumed. Exploit the opportunities for value creation unique to Norway. Develop knowledge to support sustainable management of national energy resources in both the short and the long term.
  • Reducing Norwegian and global emissions of climate gases through the development of technology and markets: Further the development of areas in which Norway has widespread expertise and robust technical solutions, so that these strengths can contribute to reducing emissions worldwide. Generate knowledge in order to establish favourable framework conditions and effective instruments for production, systems, and the utilisation of clean energy.
  • Developing Norwegian trade and industry in areas where Norwegian players have special advantages. Norwegian players are defined as companies that contribute to Norwegian value creation, either through Norwegian ownership or presence. These players must be able to compete internationally, so focus should be placed on ensuring Norwegian access to international knowledge production and on opening up opportunities for innovation in Norwegian trade and industry.

To achieve these objectives it will be essential to ensure adequate recruitment and develop expertise at a high international level. 

The work programme committee
Birte Holst Jørgensen, Deputy Head of DTU Management Engineering
Øyvind Leistad, Director for Energy Production, Enova
Per Finden, formerly: Head of Department of Energy Systems at the Institute for Energy Technology (IFE) and Associate Professor at NTNU; currently: semi-retired, independent consultant specialising in transport energy
Signe Nybø, Assistant Research Director, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA)
Anne Jorun Aas, SVP Organisation & Strategy, Scatec Solar
Morten Fossum, Vice President Development, Statkraft Varme
Petter Støa, Research Director, SINTEF Energy Research and Energi21 Executive Board member
Jane Summerton, Professor at the University of Oslo and Director of its interdisciplinary Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture
Kathrine Fog, Vice President, Energy Analysis and Policy, Hydro


From Forskning magazine no. 2/2012.


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