Norway is the largest producer of hydroelectric power in Europe, a green source of energy that supplies 99% of the country’s electricity needs.
In recent years, the development of other types of green technology has become a priority. Paradoxically, green technology in Norway owes a lot to the discovery of oil and gas in the North Sea from the 1970s onwards, both in terms of research area and funding.
The state-owned oil company Statoil was created to benefit from the oil boom, and it facilitates the development of a Norwegian oil service industry. Today, the company is diversifying away from a sole focus on hydrocarbon extraction, and invests billions of Norwegian kroner in carbon capture and other types of green energy.
In addition, oil revenues are used to finance the welfare-state, which provides free education and sets aside considerable amounts of capital for research and publicly sponsored programmes. With the looming threat of peak oil, there is considerable political will to support and cultivate growth in other sectors, such as renewable energy and low carbon technologies.
A Favourable Climate for Green Energy
With a concentration of internationally leading companies and research institutions, competent venture capital and abundant natural resources at its door step, the Oslo region is in a particularly favourable and unique position when it comes to developing clean energy:
• Natural conditions – High levels of precipitation, along with the large rivers that flow through the eastern parts of Norway, create excellent conditions for harnessing hydro power for the generation of electricity. The well-forested counties of Eastern Norway provide ample raw materials for biofuels and bioenergy for heating.
• Strong education and R&D environment – The Oslo region hosts many of Norway’s leading R&D institutes. Climate change, renewable energy and environmental topics are high on the agenda at universities, laboratories, and various research and education centres in the region.
• Business and capital – There is a concentration of public and private companies in the region, possessing both the capital and the willingness to expand their hydro and wind businesses. The region is also home to silicon wafer companies such as REC, which rank among the top world producers in their field. In addition, active and competent venture capital and private equity funds have stimulated increased investments in renewable energy and environmental activities.
• Political commitment – There is a general understanding among politicians that sustainable energy generation is the key to fighting climate change, as well as a source for new jobs and innovation. Publicly funded national and regional programmes have been established to accelerate innovation processes. In the Oslo region, politicians also see the importance of cross-county cooperation on environmental issues. One example is the Climate and Energy Fund, a collaborative project between the counties of Akershus and Buskerud, and the municipality of Oslo.
A Global Knowledge Hub
The Oslo region comprises all the main elements required to become a world-leading centre for climate and energy technology; the presence of a strong scientific environment with tight connections to a well-established industry and access to investment capital.
A recent survey by the consultancy Menon Business Economics sets the number of businesses exclusively focused on renewable energy, and environmental products and services to 721 in Oslo and its surroundings. These companies employ a total of 12,000 people and generate about NOK10(1) billion 1 (EUR 12 billion). In Norway, the public sector accounts for roughly 40% of GDP, and many cleantech start-ups in particularly on public demand, at least in the early phases of commercialization.
1 Menon Business Economics 2008 (2006-data)
Government agencies and local administration are instructed to make environmental considerations when doing public procurements. The Governing Mayor of Oslo, Mr Stian Birger Røsland, emphasises that there is an ongoing process of certifying all units of the municipality according to a set of environmental criteria. At present time around 50% is certified. According to Mr Røsland this certification will be an important contribution in both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and stimulating enterprises within the sector.
It is the ambition of the national authorities to increase interaction between academic milieus and the business sector. Through the programme Business Ph.D. a company may receive economic support for an employee doing a doctorate. In 2009, the programme was budgeted to receive EUR 4.5 million in total.
|Norwegian Centres of Expertise
In total, 12 clusters of companies within different fields has been awarded status as NCE on a national basis. Five of these lie within what can be characterized as the Oslo region, and especially the System Engineering hub in Kongsberg and the energy hub in Halden are relevant in this context. Energy provision and development of electric and hybrid cars are central areas of priority for the hub in Kongsberg. In Halden, the hub has its roots in an ICT milieu, with a special focus on energy trade and distribution, climate products and energy systems.
Educational Opportunities and Research Structures in the Oslo region
A distinct characteristic of the potential knowledge hub in the Oslo region is the strong academic milieu and opportunities for students within the field. The Norwegian University of Life Sciences, the University of Oslo and other major educational institutions all offer studies relating to climate and energy, covering topics such as energy and environment in buildings, environmental physics and renewable energy and materials, energy and nanotechnology. The leading business school BI already has programmes in environmental economy.
Director of Studies at the University of Oslo (UiO), Mrs Monica Bakken, confirms a strong interest in these topics among students, and explains that UiO now offers 13 different Master’s programmes entirely or partially devoted to sustainable energy.
The establishment of CIENS in 2005 was another milestone in establishing a knowledge hub. CIENS is a strategic research cooperation between the University of Oslo and seven institutes working within different natural and social sciences. Its ambition is to be a national and international centre for interdisciplinary research on environment and society. A vital aspect of the venture is the Oslo Innovation Centre, which assembles roughly 500 people, and creates synergies and new projects across institutional borders. Four of the participating institutions have relocated all or most of their staff to the centre.
Network Organizations and Programmes
Increased cooperation between academic institutions has become a trend among most institutions in the region. The “Oslofjord alliance” is a partnership established to promote collaboration between educational institutions offering programs in science and technology in the wider region of Oslo.
Through the strong link between participating institutions and Norwegian Centres of Expertise (NCE), special emphasis is also placed on developing closer ties between the business sector and academia.
The NCEs are backed by The Industrial Development Corporation of Norway, The Research Council of Norway and Innovation Norway. The same public organizations also administer a national program for the development of regional business clusters called Arena. Like NCE, Arena is a program assisting networks through financial and professional support.
Lillestrøm Centre of Expertise (LCE) has a prominent role in the Oslo region. Based on a public-private partnership, the LCE has more than 80 members, including the Institute for Energy Research (IFE) and Kjeller Vindteknikk AS (specializing in wind power).
In addition, LCE has strong connections to the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, located at the nearby town of Ås, and it houses the secretariat for the regional network organization Oslo Renewable Energy and Environment Cluster (OREEC).
The focus on climate and environmental technology has spurred the growth of several other network organizations in the region, like Nordic Climate Cluster, Green Business Norway, and the Norwegian Forum for Environmental Technology. These have been formed in addition to the already existing trade organizations.
Oslo Renewable Energy and Environment Cluster
OREEC’s vision is to become Europe’s leading cleantech cluster. The organization works with an interdisciplinary approach, with the aim to increase the participants’ speed of innovation and opportunities for business development. Its activities are based on innovation, international cooperation, building competence, and networking, as well as national and international public relations.OREEC is your partner if you are:• Looking for a business partner
• Looking for a highly qualified supplier to improve your energy and environment solutions
• Looking for contacts within leading research institutes or universities
• Looking for a strategic partner for your cluster initiativeFor more information: www.oreec.no
Reduce Carbon Footprint 30% by 2020
The drive towards more environmentally-friendly products and services relies heavily on political will. In response to the European Union’s 20-20-20 plan for CO2-reduction(2), Norway decided on a 30% reduction target for the same period, achieved through different measures such as reducing the overall energy consumption, promoting new forms of renewable energy, and increasing the share of biofuels and electric vehicles.
2 (20 % reductions by 2020 and a share of at least 20 % renewables in the energy mix)
Increased Funding for Energy Research
A long-term strategy for cutting emissions was devised as part of the 2008 climate consensus, with precise mid-term objectives. Included in this package was an additional allocation to the National Research Council earmarked for research in sustainable energy. Most of these additional NOK 850 million (EUR 95 million) will be distributed over a 10-year period to eight newly-created Centres for Environment-friendly Energy Research (CEERs). Each centre has been assigned to research specific areas of green energy, transport and CO2 management.
These centres are now in the process of attracting talented scientists and Ph.D. students from all over the world. The Oslo region is home to two of the centres which received CEER-status, namely The Bioenergy Innovation Centre (CenBio) in Ås and The Norwegian Research Centre for Solar Cell Technology in Kjeller.
Using natural resources and making the most of geographical conditions have been at the core of Norway’s role as an energy producer, and this holds true for clean energy as much as for fossil fuels.
The rough weather provides excellent conditions for hydro and wind power, the latter being particularly true along the long Atlantic coastline in the western part of Norway. The leading player in both segments is the state-owned power utility Statkraft, which is steadily expanding its presence throughout Scandinavia, Germany, United Kingdom and south-eastern Europe.
The strong position of Norwegian solar wafer producers, such as Oslo-based REC, stems mainly from a long-standing Norwegian expertise in silicium and metals.
Hydro and Orkla are other examples of big Oslo-based industrial groups that invest heavily in renewable energy (hydro/wind and photovoltaic respectively).
Energy Related Services
Environmental technologies encompasses much more than the mere generation of renewable energy. They represent new business possibilities in a much broader sense.
Founded in the 19th century as a ship classification company, Det Norske Veritas (DNV) has been known as a world-leader in qualification and verification services, serving a wide range of customers in many different sectors. Once it defined risk management as the general concept of its activities, the group quickly discovered business opportunities in a number of climate-related areas ranging from certification of CDM-projects in developing countries to environmentally-friendly ship design.
DNV’s head of corporate social responsibility, Mr Sven Mollekleiv, sees great potential for Oslo as the centre of a world-leading knowledge hub for renewables. Maintaining the close links between business, research institutions and public administration is the most effective way to map out promising areas for cooperation and innovation.
For Mr Mollekleiv it is also important to underscore that it is not just the city of Oslo, but Norway as whole, that should be included in the hub, “We must consider the capital city as a resource for the entire country!”
As Norway is a major producer of fossil fuels, CO2 management is also an area of priority. Large capital investments have been made in carbon capture and storage (CCS) at two recently constructed gas power stations on the western coast of Norway.
If installed at a sufficient number of power stations around the world, CCS could contribute substantially to the reduction of CO2-emissions (3). It could also secure the prolonged demand for Norwegian natural gas, and probably open up a huge market for storing European CO2 underneath the Norwegian seabed.
3 The International Energy Agency (IEA) sees CCS as one of the most important measures, along increased energy efficiency and more use of renewable energy (World Energy Outlook 2008).
The cost of required investments before the technology becomes commercially viable is estimated at EUR 1-1.5 billion, but the actual cost could run much higher. However, there is still plenty of political support in Norway for CCS, and if successful, it could become Norway’s next big export.
|Centres for Environment-friendly Energy Research
• Norwegian Centre for Offshore Wind Energy – CMR
• BIGCCS Centre – International CCS Research Centre – SINTEF Energiforskning
• Subsurface CO2 storage – Critical Elements and Superior Strategy (SUCCESS – CMR)
• Research Centre for Offshore Wind Technology – SINTEF Energiforskning
• Centre for Environmental Design of Renewable Energy – SINTEF Energiforskning
• The Norwegian Research Centre for Solar Cell Technology – IFE
• Bioenergy Innovation Centre – UMB
• The Research Centre on Zero Emission Buildings – NTNUThe centres will receive between EUR 1 and 2 million per year over a period of five years, with a possibility for extending the funding for another three years.