Norway joins the European interest in renewable hydrogen

28 January, 2021

Norway’s hydrogen strategy seeks to exploit the energy advantages of a country that produces more energy than it consumes.

Is it possible for a country to commit to clean energies when oil has represented, for some years, 80% of its economy? That country is Norway and the answer is yes.

Norwegian oil was discovered in 1969 with the drilling of the first North Sea oil well and today it is the seventh largest oil producer in the world. It is managed through the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund, channelled through the country’s Central Bank.

The profits obtained are invested in different businesses. In fact, in recent years Norway’s National Bank has acquired stakes in more than 9,000 companies around the world from a variety of sectors, but always with a non-negotiable premise: it monitors the sustainability of the businesses in which it invests and also their code of ethics. In Spain, Norges Bank has almost 10 billion euros invested in shares alone. Of the 35 Ibex companies, it holds stakes in 34.

Investment in technological development

Despite the fact that oil and gas represent one of its main economic activities, last June the Minister for Petroleum and Energy, Tina Bru, confirmed that her country would be joining the European and global plans to promote the development of a proper hydrogen strategy. In this context she presented the national hydrogen plan.

Within this forward-looking policy, the Norwegian government has found a motivating path that leads it to promote the technological development that favours the widespread use of green hydrogen.

The Norwegian government is aware that a major investment will be needed to develop this technology, but it also sees green hydrogen as “a story of hope for a new world with low emissions”

During the presentation, Bru acknowledged that a major investment will be necessary to develop this technology. A few days earlier, the Norwegian government had proposed granting 11 million euros to the Norwegian Research Council’s ENERGIX programme. Hydrogen technologies and solutions will play a key role in this programme.

The minister said her government sees green hydrogen as “a story of hope. A hope for a new world with low emissions. A hope for disruptive change. A hope for a new industry and new jobs in a green future”.

Its target is ambitious and has recently been strengthened: to reduce emissions by at least 50%, and by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, and by 90-95% by 2050.

To achieve this, Norway already has considerable advantages over other countries:

  • It has a power system based almost entirely on flexible hydroelectric power. Norway typically produces more energy each year than it consumes.
  • It also has the potential to produce more energy from other renewable energy sources such as onshore wind energy or, in a broader perspective, offshore wind energy.
  • It is the world’s third largest exporter of natural gas after Russia and Qatar, and the second largest producer among IEA member countries after the United States, according to data from the International Energy Agency report (published in 2017). Unlike the United States, where most of the gas is used domestically, in Norway only 5% of the gas produced is consumed within its borders. Most of it is exported via subsea pipelines to destinations in Western Europe, covering more than 20% of European gas demand and making an important contribution to the security of gas supply in Europe.

Norway aims to lead the green shipping market by leveraging its advantages: a major exporter of natural gas, an energy system based almost entirely on flexible hydropower and huge potential to generate even more renewable energy

Leading the green transport market

But where Norway really sees the greatest potential for value creation in this area is in the maritime sector. Norway aims to become the world leader in green shipping technology and already has several advanced projects:

    • This year, Norled will start operating a hydrogen-electric ferry at the Hjelmeland ferry connection in Rogaland, powered 50% by liquid hydrogen and 50% by batteries.
    • Havyard is to spearhead a project for emission-free operations in the Norwegian fjords and on parts of the regular route of the “Hurtigruten”, or Coastal Steamer, combining batteries and hydrogen fuel cells.
    • Trøndelag County Council has a project to develop hydrogen for high-speed passenger ferries to replace obsolete ferries in the coming years.