Svalbard is a powerful symbol of climate change. Norwegian politicians often bring international guests to the archipelago to illustrate the drama: the impact of climate change is clearly visible in the vulnerable, Arctic environment. The signatories of this letter recommend six actions to move Svalbard from coal community to renewable role model.
March 2019 was the 100th month in a row with temperatures above normal at Svalbard. The temperature at Svalbard has already increased 3-5 degrees in 40-50 years, and can increase with another worrying 10 degrees this century.
In light of this, it is a significant paradox that the Svalbard community is entirely based on fossil energy consumption. We can and must do something about it. Norway 203040 is a business network to address climate change. We believe it is possible to create an emission-free Svalbard community; a global showcase for the transition to the renewable practices the world needs.
The first step has already been taken by abolishing coal mining activities. However, a plan for its replacement as a source of energy and economic activity remains to be seen. The local population wants new solutions. In the meantime, power and heating are produced by coal. Because of the previously unlimited access to surplus heating, houses are generally poorly isolated. The use of diesel is exempt from CO2 taxation and there is no VAT, so the incentive to choose electric transportation is not the same as on mainland Norway. In practice, this means that Svalbard, unlike mainland Norway, has hardly started on its journey towards a low-emission society.
This situation can be changed. We challenge the Norwegian government and Minister of Industry Torbjørn Røe Isaksen take our vision for Svalbard by addressing the six points below in the Ministry’s coming Business and Innovation Strategy for Svalbard:
- Set clear climate ambitions for an emission-free Svalbard
Recognize Svalbard as a pilot arena and showcase for emission-free solutions in the Arctic. Set a target that Svalbard should be emission-free by 2040, with a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (as for the rest of Europe). High ambitions stimulate innovation and green jobs, help secure settlement and attract the expertise we need to succeed. If we manage to do this on Svalbard, we have climate solutions that can be exported.
- Start with the close and familiar possibilities
Svalbard is about to invest in a new backup power solution that will be connected to the two turbines of the existing coal power plant. One turbine produces electricity and the other heating to the district heating network. It is key to ensure that this is an emission-free solution with battery storage of electricity, thermal storage of heat, or using hydrogen as an energy carrier. Battery storage can even out the power load on the coal power plant and bring down the operating and maintenance costs of one turbine. Thermal storage can help smooth out the district heating load and reduce the cost of the other turbine. By applying the backup power solution enables better interaction with renewable energy sources and enables the development of solar energy and wind power. Hydrogen can also make it possible to link Svalbard to a renewable energy chain on mainland Norway.The regulations and market mechanisms for the energy system in Svalbard are currently not adapted for multiple energy sources or priced in terms of reduced energy consumption (heating is paid per square meter of housing). There must be a comprehensive and long-term reorganization of the regulations and price mechanisms, facilitating a well-functioning energy market where there is room for solar and wind energy, as well as energy storage. This system must be able to interact with the existing (coal) energy system during a transition period.
- Reduce energy consumption in buildings
In addition, the energy efficiency of existing buildings and adaptation for new energy-plus-houses and passive houses with adapted energy solutions such as geothermal heat, thermal pumps and electric heating must be implemented. This will also bring significant benefits to the inhabitants of Svalbard and improve indoor climate conditions.
- Phasing in of renewable energy sources and alternative forms of energy storage
Development of solar and wind energy, both as part of local energy solutions (solar panels on buildings) but also as larger plants (wind and solar parks) can relieve the coal power plant step by step. At times, one of the present two turbines can probably be shut down for shorter or longer periods. Solar and wind power will be able to provide large energy surpluses during the around-the-clock Arctic summer. The challenge will be energy storage for the long winter.
A program for testing alternative energy storage solutions for seasonal renewable energy should be established. Svalbard provides room for the testing of a number of solutions using battery, hydrogen and thermal storage technologies. Here, Norwegian research institutions and companies can gain competence and take a leadership role in a rapidly evolving field. Constant development and expansion of storage solutions can be coordinated with a step-by-step phasing out of the coal power plant.
- Full-scale electrification of Svalbard
Svalbard is a small and dense community that is well suited for electrification. By using emissions-free solutions for transport and tourism such as electric buses, electric cars and electric snowmobiles, as well as in construction, tourism and the maritime industries, Svalbard could be emission-free by 2040. This would make the archipelago a true role model and an attractive destination for sustainable tourism.
- Make Svalbard the world’s northernmost smart society
We know that low-emission society will require efficiency improvements in a number of important areas of society. Norway is among the world’s most digitally mature nations. We have good conditions for applying new technologies areas such as 5G, IoT and artificial intelligence (AI) at Svalbard. Full-scale testing in this area will provide the basis for innovation and globally scalable solutions.
If we collectively take these steps, Norway can move beyond showcasing the dramatic impact of climate changes at Svalbard, but also lead the way to stopping them.
- Christian Rynning-Tønnessen, CEO, Statkraft, and board member Norway 203040
- Tone Wille, CEO, Posten, and board member Norway 203040
- Bernt Reitan Jenssen, CEO, Ruter, and board member Norway 203040
- Tonje Frydenlund, Managing Director, Snøhetta
- Sigve Brekke, CEO, Telenor Group
- Remi Eriksen, CEO, DNV GL
- Bjørn K. Haugland, CEO, Norway 203040
- Jens Ulltveit-Moe, Chairman, Norway 203040
- Frank Jaegtnes, CEO, Elektroforeningen
- Bård Vegard Solhjell, CEO, WWF
- Marius Holm, CEO, ZERO