Electricity Shortage “Unacceptable” Says Environment Minister

Low cost of electricity in Iceland compared with the rest of Europe

Icelandic fish processing plants will need to power their operations with oil and diesel generators for the third winter in a row due to an electricity shortage, Vísir reports. This burning of oil and diesel cancels out all of the emissions saved by electric cars in Iceland thus far. Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson says the lack of green energy is unacceptable in a country that’s aiming for a green energy exchange.

Guðlaugur Þór says that the current shortage is the result of very few power plant construction projects in Iceland over the past 15-20 years. “This is not acceptable at all and we must do everything we can to resolve this as soon as possible,” he told reporters. The Minister criticised the red tape that delayed the approval of the construction of new power plant projects and called for streamlining the system.

Read More: 2021 Electricity Shortage Impacts Local Industry

Last June, the Environmental and Natural Resources Board of Appeal revoked the construction permit for the proposed Hvammsvirkjun hydropower plant in South Iceland, after the local council decided to review new information on the plant’s potential environmental impacts. The Board of Appeal emphasised that the National Energy Authority (Orkustofnun) had not followed the guidelines of the Water Council when preparing to issue a permit to the hydropower plant.

The Hvammsvirkjun plant would have an estimated capacity of 95 MW. For comparison, Iceland’s largest hydropower plants are the Kárahnjúkar and Búrfell plants, with respective capacities of 690 KW and 270 KW. Both were built to provide power to aluminium smelters. Hellisheiði Power Station is Iceland’s largest geothermal power plant, with a capacity of 303 MW.

Data centres use more electricity than Icelandic homes

There are also those who are sceptical of the need for additional power plants in Iceland, shifting the attention to energy-intensive industries that arguably contribute little to the country’s GDP. Snæbjörn Guðmundsson of the nature conservation organisation Náttúrugrið has expressed concern that the proposed Hvammsvirkjun hydropower plant would be used towards Bitcoin mining, a growing industry in Iceland. The National Power Company has stated that it would not build power plants for the express purpose of providing energy to Bitcoin mining companies.

Data centres (of which Bitcoin mining centres are a subcategory) in Iceland use 30% more energy than all Icelandic homes put together, and while the percentage of this energy that goes toward Bitcoin mining is not public knowledge, it could be as high as 90%.

More Energy Needed to Ensure Green Transition, Government Report Indicates

Krafla Mývatnssveit power plant electricity

Iceland will have to increase energy production by 125% in order to achieve a full transition to green energy, a new government report indicates. Iceland’s Environment Minister says the report can be used as a basis for decision making, but it is up to authorities how they apply the information provided. The CEO of the Icelandic Environment Association has stated that building additional power plants entails sacrificing Icelandic nature and is not a necessary step toward achieving the country’s environmental goals.

“It’s clear that this is necessary if we are to achieve the energy transition, Iceland’s Minister of the Environment, Energy, and Climate, Guðlaugur Þór Guðluagsson, stated. “However, there are many ways to achieve that goal. And this is not a policy. It is, however, a status report and highlights how things stand. Now it is up to the Parliament and the government to work it out, how to best handle this issue.”

Innovation depends on energy availability

The report proposes six scenarios for the future of energy production in Iceland, five of which entail increasing energy production. Only four scenarios assume that the country will achieve a full energy transition by 2040: that is, completely stop the use of fossil fuels within the next 18 years. If this goal is taken into account, and a rise in energy-intensive industry is assumed, then Iceland will need to produce 125% more energy than it does today. Ensuring those energy needs are met would not only require additional power plants, but increased efficiency at existing plants, energy-saving measures, and more efficient energy usage.

Read More: Iceland’s Plan to Become Carbon Neutral by 2040

Energy production is also a key factor in innovation and job creation across Iceland, according to Sigríður Mogensen, a department head at the Federation of Icelandic Industries, and one of the authors of the government report. “Many projects have been in the works and in development, whether it is food production projects, biotechnology projects, algae cultivation, and I could go on, which have unfortunately not been possible due to a lack of electricity or the weak state of the electricity transmission system.”

Entails sacrificing Icelandic nature

“It’s a question of what decisions we make. If this becomes a reality, then we’re making the decision to sacrifice Icelandic nature,” Auður Önnu Magnúsdóttir, CEO of the Icelandic Environment Association, stated in response to the report. She does not agree that a 125% hike in energy production is necessary in order to achieve a full energy transition.

Auður has argued for “real energy-saving measures, such as diversifying tourism, coastal shipping, such as building passive buildings, using heat pumps, and taking real energy efficiency measures, such as using waste heat from power plants. Today, 80% of the energy that is produced, it goes directly to big industry. That is not sensible prioritising.”

New Fast Charge Station Can Power a Car for 100 Km in Under Five Minutes

driving in reykjavík

The most powerful electric vehicle fast-charge station went into use in Iceland on Friday, RÚV reports. It only takes five minutes for the station to charge a vehicle for 100 kilometres [62 mi].

The charging station has been installed in the parking lot of the Bílabúð Benna car dealership at Krók­háls 9 in Grafarholt og Úlfarsárdalur in the eastern suburbs of Reykjavík. It can deliver up to 350 kW of electricity. According to dealership owner Benedikt Eyjólfsson, this is even more powerful than the EV charging stations that Tesla is installing, which provide up to 250 kW. The stations installed by Icelandic power company ON Power reach a max of 150 kW.

“It can take under five minutes for 100 kilometres,” said Benedikt, “and if the car can take such a powerful charge, you could get up to 250 kilometres in 10 minutes.” The station will be open to anyone who has a vehicle with the so-called ‘Euro connector’ (Type 2) for fast charge stations. The first person to charge their electric car at the station was Minister of Industry and Innovation Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, who commented that the country’s transition away from from fossil fuels in transportation is well underway. In fact, she says, Iceland has made more progress in transitioning away from fossil fuels than almost any country in the world.

See Also: Renewable Energy 11.4% of Fuel in Road Transport in 2020

“The energy transition in transportation is going well, we’re now number two in the world, after the Norwegians, and we’ve been encouraging and supporting infrastructure development.” Þórdís Kolbrún says that this infrastructure, i.e. additional charging stations, has been “sorely needed” so that “there won’t be this range anxiety and people can travel between places and out in the countryside.”

“We also know that there are often bottlenecks,” Þórdís Kolbrún continued, “and we have to be careful that at places where there are many [EV charging stations], that people can charge both quickly and well. We’re trying to achieve this combination by pushing things forward with grants, but of course it’s just the general market that’s really doing it,” she concluded.

Renewable Energy 11.4% of Fuel in Road Transport in 2020

driving in reykjavík

The Ministry of Industry and Innovation announced yesterday that the government had attained an important milestone in the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy. Renewable energy accounted for 11.4% of the fuel used for road transport in 2020, according to a report from the National Energy Authority.

The first milestone

Ten years ago, the government confirmed a parliamentary resolution entrusting the Minister of Industry (now the Minister of Industry and Innovation) to decrease the share of fossil fuels in the transportation sector. The aim was to “replace fossil fuels with local, renewable energy.”

The legislation established a timeline for the creation of policy, goal-setting, and a comprehensive plan of action regarding energy transition in the transportation sector until 2020. Its primary purpose was for Iceland to become a leader in sustainable transportation. “The percentage of renewable energy within the transportation sector is currently lower in Iceland when compared to other countries, or less than 1%. The goal of EU member states is 10% by 2020,” the resolution stated.

Renewable energy 11.4% of total fuel in road transport

In a statement released yesterday, the Ministry of Industry and Innovation stated that renewable energy had accounted for 11.4% of the fuel in the transportation sector in 2020, marking a significant milestone on the way to sustainability. The figure – which refers solely to road transport – reflects “all of the renewable energy that is used to power vehicles in Iceland, including electricity, biodiesel, methane, and hydrogen.” The statement enumerated some of the benefits of the transition:

“Energy Transition, where fossil fuels are replaced by sustainable sources of energy, are necessary to combat the threat of climate change, which is one of the greatest challenges facing mankind. The transition to cleaner energy will lead to energy savings, increased energy security, currency savings, and lower CO2 emissions.”

The communique also included a link to an article published by the World Economic Forum in February. In collaboration with Statista, the World Economic Forum gathered global data on new passenger car sales in 2020. According to the results, plug-in electric vehicles – including plug-in hybrids and light vehicles but excluding commercial vehicles – accounted for 45% of new car sales in Iceland, second only to Norway (nearly 75% of new cars sales in Norway are plug-in electric vehicles).

New goals set

The Ministry also announced new goals had been established for 2030, wherein the government aims to increase the percentage of renewable energy within the road transportation sector to 40%. The Ministry hopes to make Iceland completely carbon neutral by 2050 (100% renewable energy for road transport).