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Posts from the ‘Norway’ Category

Peak of the Norwegian Petroleum Adventure

At the turn of the century it looked like the Norwegian petroleum adventure had reached its peak. And that from then on, the petroleum production on the Norwegian continental shelf would only decrease.

Oil production on the Norwegian continental shelf did indeed hit a plateau in 2001 and started soon to decline. However with new major discoveries of additional petroleum resources, including both oil and gas, this amazing period of the Norwegian petroleum-age has been extended further into the 21st century.

Now it is expected that petroleum production (combined production of oil and natural gason the Norwegian shelf will grow somewhat in the coming years (at least until 2023). Then the production will reach the final plateau and start a real and steady decline. And the slope of the decline may become quite steep.

Norway’s population is only close to five million. Yet, Norway is the world’s third largest exporter of oil and gas (after Saudi Arabia and Russia). And there is only one country that produces more petroleum from the continental shelf than Norway, which is Saudi Arabia.

Although Norway describes itself as “a small player in the global crude market”, with its oil production covering about 2% of the current global demand, Norway is the third largest exporter of natural gas in the world. And Norway supplies about ¼ of the EU gas demand.

When having in mind the population of countries, Norway is the second largest petroleum producer (per capita). Only Qatar produces more oil and gas per capita. Other major petroleum producers per capita, are mostly other states at the Persian Gulf, like Kuwait and UAE.

Another interesting fact regarding Norway’s massive petroleum production, is the enormous size of the Norwegian Oil Fund (the Government Pension Fund Global). Last year (2017) the value of the fund reached over 1,000 billion USD.

The Oil Fund of Norway is the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. With recent decline in share prices, right now the value of the fund may be somewhat lower than 1,000 billion USD. However, most countries and governments accept that Norwegians have done very well with their petroleum wealth. And although Norway may be reaching its peak in petroleum production, the peak of the Oil Fund is probably much farther in the future.

EU supports 1,400 MW NorthConnect HVDC cable

In mid February 2017 EU’s Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA) published a list of energy infrastructure projects that have been selected to receive financial support from the European Union. One of these projects, designated as a Project of Common Interest, is the NorthConnect HVDC subsea cable, to connect the electricity markets in Norway and Scotland.

hvdc-north-connect_norway-uk-route-illustrationThis decision by INEA makes the approximately 655 km NorthConnect project eligible to apply for funding from the Connecting Europe Facility, the EU’s funding support programme for infrastructure, receiving over EUR 10 million to support its development. The NorthConnect cable will have a capacity of 1,400 MW. As other subsea interconnectors with Norway, the NorthConnect is expected to further balance the grid between the relevant countries and allowing wider electricity trading across Europe. Thus, this new cable will not call for increased hydro power capacity in Norway, which generates close to 100% of all electricity by utilizing hydro power.

Onshore Wind Farm Farr, Scotland / Onshore-Windpark Farr, SchottScotland has been developing major wind capacity. When strong winds will generate high amounts of electricity; the NorthConnect interconnector makes it possible to export part of the generation to Norway. Meanwhile, the massive hydro reservoirs in Norway will become like gigantic green batteries being charged. When the winds in Scotland will be calmer, the Norwegian hydro power companies will turn on their turbines, making it possible to export electricity to Scotland. This should increase security of supply and stabilize electricity prices for consumers. In addition, the new interconnector will increase the use of renewable energy in Europe.

The NorthConnect power cable will be routed from Simadalen in Norway, across the North Sea to Long Haven Bay, just south of Peterhead in Scotland. On the Norwegian side of the link, the cable will follow the long Hardangerfjord in western Norway, until landing at Simadalen. The exact route across the North Sea has yet to be determined. The project is due to start construction in 2019, reaching completion in 2022.

statnett-hvdc-subsea-cables-balancing-gridIf everything goes as planned, NorthConnect will be the first subsea interconnector from Norway owned by power companies. So far all the subsea power cables from Norway have been owned by the relevant transmission system operators. Current owners of the NorthConnect project are the Swedish national energy firm Vattenfall and three Norwegian power companies; Agder Energi, E-CO and Lyse Produksjon. All these four companies are in public ownership; the Swedish state owns Vattenfall and the three Norwegian firms are owned by several Norwegian municipalities and the national power company Statkraft.

Unique opportunity for Statkraft

Norwegian state-owned power company Statkraft is by far the largest power producer in Norway. The company produces almost all the electricity by hydropower plants, often at a very low cost.

Statkraft-long-term-contracts-2015Large share of the electricity Statkraft is selling today, is produced to fulfill long-term contracts with heavy industries, such as aluminum smelters in Norway. The tariffs for most of this power are very low; in general substantially lower than the electricity price on the spot market of Nord Pool Spot. In the coming years, most of these contracts will run out, creating a great opportunity for Statkraft to increase its revenues and profits.

Today, close to 20 TWh of Statkraft’s production are sold by long-term contracts. This is approximately 40% of all the electricity Statkraft generates by hydropower stations in Norway and other Scandinavian countries (Statkraft has significant operations outside of Norway, particularly in Sweden). Within a few years, Statkraft will be able to put up to 15 TWh of extra electricity into the spot-market.

Norway-Statkraft-Vannkraft-NorgeWith the construction of the NSN Interconnector (or North Sea Link) and NordLink, Norway will soon have stronger transmission-links with Britain and Germany. These HVDC cables will have a combined capacity of 2.800 MW. This  access to the higher priced European spot markets will open up the possibility for increased revenues for Norwegian-made green electricity.

Although it is possible, and even likely, that some of the long-term power contracts of Statkraft may be re-negotiated, the new cables and expired contracts will create unique opportunities for Statkraft. Making Norway’s position as a giant green power battery even stronger. This is a path that other countries with extensive hydropower resources may follow, making Northern renewable energy even more profitable than it presently is.

Subsea HVDC cable between Norway and the UK

A subsea high voltage direct current (HVDC) electric cable will be constructed between Norway and the United Kingdom; the NSN Link. This was reported earlier this year (2015). And earlier this month (July 2015), it was announced that contracts have been awarded to build the cable and the converter stations.

NSN-Link_UK-Norway-HVDC-Cable-MapThe NSN Link (or NSN Interconnector) will be the longest subsea electric cable so far. The cable will connect Blyth in Northumberland on the UK side and Kvilldal in Rogaland on the Norwegian side. Today, the record length of such a cable is the NorNed cable between Norway and the Netherlands. NorNed is 580 km long, but NSN Link will be 730 km long. Thus, this new cable will increase the world record length of approx. 25%.

According to ABB, even longer submarine cables of this kind are already both technically and financially possible. Therefore it seems increasingly more likely that an interconnector between Iceland and Europe is only a matter of time.

NSN-Link-UK-Norway-HVDC-CableAs the NSN Link will be twin cabling, the total length will be approximately 1,460 km of cable. The capacity will be 1,400 MW. Owners and operators of the cable will be the Norwegian Transmission Operator Statnett and UK National Grid. The NSN Link is expected to be in operation by 2021.

By the NSN Link, Norwegians can take advantage of their highly flexible hydropower to increase the efficiency of their utilization of this great natural and renewable resource. By taking advantage of the price differences in the Norwegian and British electricity markets, and the price fluctuations within each day and night, the cable offers positive possibilities to maximize profits in the Norwegian electricity production.

NSN-Link-UK-Norway-HVDC-Cable-More-EfficiencyThe cable will also create new revenues for British electricity companies, as there will for example be an incentive for Norway to buy and import electricity from wind power farms in UK at periods when electricity demand is low. This creates opportunity to save water in the Norwegian reservoirs, which then will be used for generating electricity and export it to the UK when power prices are high.

An electric cable between Iceland and the UK would create similar opportunities. Currently, the pros and cons of such a cable are being considered by the Icelandic Ministry for Industry and Innovation. A further governmental decision on the matter may be expected early next year (2016).

Norway’s subsea interconnectors

The following article is by Mr. Björgvin Skúli Sigurðsson. Mr. Sigurðsson is the Executive Vice President of Marketing and Business Development of Icelandic power company Landsvirkjun. The article was originally published in Icelandic, in the Icelandic newspaper Morgunblaðið. This translation into English is by Askja Energy Partners:

Norway’s subsea interconnectors

According to Norwegian energy policy, the resources are utilized to create maximum value for the country. Norwegians sell oil on the international market and with new subsea interconnectors they are increasingly becoming important players at the European electricity markets.

Bjorgvin-Skuli-Sigurdsson-VP-LandsvirkjunThe NorNed cable between Norway and the Netherlands is the world’ longest submarine interconnector, 580 km long. It started operating in 2008, after more than two years construction period. Today, four submarine electric cables link Norway and Denmark, the most recent one from last March (2015). Danes have constructed  numerous wind parks and when the wind is not blowing in Denmark (thus limited electricity production) the links to Norway are used to transport  hydropower between the countries.

Three submarine cables being planned 

Norwegians now have three submarine cables under planning. The largest project is the NSN-cable between Norway and the United Kingdom (UK). It will be 700 km long, thus becoming the world’s longest subsea interconnector when it starts operating in 2020. The NordLink-cable between Norway and Germany will be 570 km. Like the NSN-cable, the NordLink  is scheduled to become operational in 2020. The third project will be one more cable between Norway and UK, the NorthConnect.  The Norwegian state-owned energy company Statkraft expects that other cable projects of similar size will take place before 2025.

Constructing subsea cables is a complex issue. For example, the NSN-cable will cross at least 14 gas pipelines which extend from drilling rigs in the North Sea. Also the cable route must take notice of the busy marine transports and fishing.

Electricity prices in Norway

Norwegian households are highly dependent on electricity, as most buildings have electric heating. In dry periods, when water in the Norwegian reservoirs is limited, the electricity price can be volatile. It may sound strange to some people, but the Norwegians have emphasized the importance of having subsea interconnectots to their neighbouring countries to keep electricity prices down, especially as a result of the high electricity prices during the drought of 2003. According to Norwegian authorities, electricity prices in Norway after 2008 would have been higher if the NorNed cable would not have come into operation.

Danish interconnector

Recently Denmark announced plans for a subsea link to the UK. The idea behind the project is to transport wind power from Denmark to the UK, and also use the interconnectors from Norway and Sweden  to Denmark, to transfer the flexible Norwegian and Swedish hydropower through Denmark to the British electricity market.

The author is VP of Marketing and Business Development at the Icelandic power company Landsvirkjun.

NordLink: 1,400 MW interconnector between Norway and Germany

Earlier this month (February 2015) final investment decision for the NordLink high voltage direct current (HVDC) interconnector was made by partners Statnett, TenneT and KfW.

HVDC-Nordlink-MapThis will be the first direct connection between the German and Norwegian electricity markets and is yet another indicator how positive interconnectors are for the Norwegian electricity market. This development is also likely to strengthen interest in a cable project connecting Iceland and Europe (sometimes referred to as IceLink). Thus, we at Askja Energy will closely be following the construction of the NordLink.

NordLink is a turning point in the development of subsea electric cables. The longest cable of this kind today is the 580 km long NorNed between Norway and the Netherlands, which has been in operation since 2008. The length of NordLink will be close to 600 km, of which 516 km will be a subsea cable. Furthermore, the capacity of NordLink will be 1,400 MW and the voltage will be 500 kV, while NorNed is only 700 MW (and 450 kV).

The NordLink will be realized by the Norwegian Statnett and Nordseekabel, each with 50 percent ownership in the project. The Dutch TSO TenneT (which also operates transmission system in Germany) and the German promotional bank KfW each have shares of 50 percent in Nordseekabel.  The tender process has been finalized, where Nexans and ABB have been awarded contracts for the HVDC cable itself and ABB has been awarded the contract for the converter stations (on each end of the cable in Germany and Norway). Lead insurer for the project will be Codan.

NordLink signingThe NordLink comprises a total investment volume of approximately EUR 1.5 – 2 billion EUR (equivalent to 1,7-2,3 billion USD). The interconnector is scheduled for commissioning and trial operation in the last quarter of 2019, and after the trial period the interconnector will go into commercial operations in 2020.

The most important aspect of NordLink’s business model is to utilizing the flexibility of Norway’s hydropower system as storage for German wind power. This will increase the utilization of the German wind power capacity and also make it possible to maximize profits of the Norwegian hydropower industry, creating a win-sin situation. The result will also be increased proportion of renewable electricity and increased security of supply. Without doubt, an interconnector between Iceland and Europe would offer similar advantages.

Norway’s positive experience from interconnectors and open electricity market

Earlier this month, Mr. Ola Borten Moe, former energy- and petroleum minister of Norway, was in Iceland, discussing the development of the Norwegian electricity market.

In a presentation, at the Harpa Conference Hall in Reykjavík, Mr. Borten Moe gave a comprehensive insight on the matter. This open meeting took place on September 9th (2014) and was hosted by VÍB. The meeting was very well attended; in addition to the crowd at the hall at Harpa close to two thousand people watched the event live on the web (where a video recording is now available).

Iceland-Energy-Harpa-September-2014_Norway-Borten-Moe_Ragnheidur-Elin-Arnadottir_Hordur-Arnarson_Ketill-Sigurjonsson-1After the keynote speach by Mr. Borten Moe, there were panel discussion with three more participants; Ms. Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir, Icelandic Minister for Energy and Industries, Mr. Hörður Arnarson, CEO of Landsvirkjun Power Company, and Mr. Ketill Sigurjónsson, Managing Director of Askja Energy Partners. In his presentation Mr Borten Moe especially focused on two main issues; .Norway’s experience from the liberalization of the electricity market and Norway’s experience from the interconnectors (electric HVDC cables) between Norway and outher countries. Here we will highligt some parts of Mr. Borten Moe’s presentation. For reference, we will quote a transcript from the meeting, now accessible at the website of Landsvirkjun.

Positive economic and environmental effects

Mr. Borten Moe explained how the Norwegian deregulation of the elctricity market, which happened in the 1990’s, became a model for similar changes in Europe a decade later. He also described how interconnectors (electric cables) between Norway and other countries have benefitted both the Norwegian people and the domestic energy industry in Norway.

According to Mr. Borten Moe, the market deregulation and the interconnectors have been very positve for the Norwegian society. It has lead to more efficiency in the Norwegian hydropower industry, wich is mostly in public ownership. Also Mr. Borten Moe stated, that the interconnectors have resulted in a better access to electricity supply, which has especially been important for Norway in dry periods (as Norway’s electricity generation is almost 100% based on hydropower). Even more, the result of the more competitive electricity market has not only been the financial benefit, but also a better stewardship of the natural resources. In Borten Moe’s own words:

Iceland-Energy-Harpa-September-2014_Norway-Borten-Moe-1“We [Norwegians] experienced a huge efficiency gain in the power production industry. And not did they only turn around all the heads in all of the industry, but […] also turned around the head to everyone owning the industry. Meaning that thousands of people could be liberated or do something else and more productive for society.”

“From the mid-1990s and outwards, the [electricity generating] industry produced huge surpluses, and these are values that are put back into work for the Norwegian society through the fact that there are municipalities, counties, and the government owning it. So we build roads, we build schools, we build health care systems for the values created in our power industry.”

“I foresee Norway being willing to take a bigger place when it comes to capacity regulating systems, using our hydropower system more to regulate for necessary regulations of the European power markets being more dependent on renewables […] and also maybe even selling electricity, being a net exporter. That is basically what we do with oil and gas.“

“So far in Norway, this has been the story that I told you. It has been more well functioned markets, increased efficiency, more values created, more security of supply and now lower electricity prices because we have introduced more production capacity into the market.”

Efficiency in the electricity industry serves as natural protection

The Norwegian electricity market was tightly regulated up until the 1990’s. This meant very limited competition. Low returns were a normal condition in the electricity production and this lead to over-investment in the hydropower sector. One of the effects of the deregulation was more access to economical supply outside of the former small highly regulated markets in Norway. Thus, the deregulation served as an incentive to not utilize some of the less economic hydropower sources. Or as Mr. Borten Moe explained:

Iceland-Energy-Harpa-September-2014_Borten-Moe_Ragnheidur-Elin-Arnadottir_Hordur-Arnarson_Ketill-Sigurjonsson-panel“[My] predecessor, Eivind Reiten, who is the father of the new energy system, when he presented the new energy bill to Parliament in 1990, deregulating the whole sector as one of the first countries in the world, he said that this bill would save more Norwegian nature and water and waterfalls than any gang in chains would ever do. And he was right. So the deregulation and the market system in Norway has also been one of the biggest reforms to save Norwegian nature.”

“Norwegians strongly believe that access to electricity should be cheap, it should be unlimited, and it should be safe. And it should not disturb the nature, which basically means that you have a lot of wishes and demands and it’s not always very easy to fulfill all those wishes at once.”

“I think it is a fact that you need to consume nature to produce electricity and power but basically I would say that if you are to do it at least you need to produce a lot of money, a lot of values for society doing it.”

Competitiveness of Norwegian industries is still strong

The deregulation of the Norwegian electricity market and increased interconnectors have had fairly limited impact on industries in Norway; even energy-intensive industries. Electricity prices have indeed risen, but the competitiveness of the industry relies much more on the global market conditions rather than the electricity price in Norway.

Iceland-Energy-Harpa-September-2014_Borten-Moe_Ragnheidur-Elin-Arnadottir_Hordur-Arnarson_Ketill-SigurjonssonThe interconnectors and increased efficiency in the Norwegian electricity sector has been a success in increasing profits in the industry. One of the results is increased tax-revenues. This has created more possibilities for the Norwegian government to set up incentive schemes to positively increase investment of industries in Norway. When valuating the financial effects of the deregulation and more interconnected electricity market, the wholistic economic result in Norway has been very positive. As Mr. Borten Moe explained:

“What we have seen when it comes to our industries during the last 25 years, both through the deregulation and now with the more Nordic and European electricity market, is not that they have fled the country.”

“The world markets are far more important for the development of our power intensive industries than the electricity prices, and the electricity prices have not gone all that much up.”

“We see a new interest in reinvesting in Norway, Norwegian power intensive industries. Norwegian, our Norsk Hydro, which is our huge aluminum smelter company, is probably going to build a huge new smelter up in Karmøy [in Southwestern Norway].

Ola-Borten-Moe-Presenting-in-Norway-2011“And it is also a fact that in Norway, the power companies, the production companies, when they negotiate long term contracts, they know that they need the power intensive industries, after all, it’s their biggest clients. They use around 40 out of 120 terawatt hours, and if they go away, you would completely take the floor out of the Norwegian electricity market and the prices of the whole portfolio would go to the bottom. And they would lose a lot of money.“

“In Norway at least, I am convinced that we are not going to produce aluminum because we have cheaper prices than anywhere in the world or because we have lower regulations on the environment. On the contrary I think that we should have good prices on energy, meaning also [the aluminum smelters] should pay enough for the energy to make them wish every day they wake up to get a little better and a little bit more efficient and a little bit more competitive and it should be the same when it comes to environmental regulations.“

Stable and secure energy supply

According to Mr. Borten Moe, increased interconnection has contributed to strengthening the electricity supply for Norwegian consumers. Norway’s electricity production is close to 100% based on hydropower. In dry periods, less water in rivers and reservoirs can result in temporarily very high electricity prices and even problems in supplying enough electricity to meet the demand. The possibility of importing electricity through subsea cables and other interconnectors, makes it much easier for the generating industry to offer stable and secure supply of electricity.

Karahnjukar_Hydropower_spillwayThe interconnectors also offer the possibility to export electricity when prices at the other end of the cable (such as in the Netherlands) are high. This means that interconnectors improve yield and profitability of the utilization of hydropower resources in Norway.

With this in mind, it is interesting that on average approx. 10% of the water in the Icelandic hydro reservoirs flows through spillways. If Iceland would be connected with another electricity market (preferably fairly large market, such as the British or German markets) it could be very economic and efficient to add more turbines and utilize the spillwater to generate electricity and sell it through such a subsea cable (interconnector). With regard to this, it is interesting to consider Norway’s experience as described by Mr. Mr. Borten Moe:

“In 2003, I think we had a summation, a mind gobbling situation, because the prices of electricity peaked, and the population asked serious questions about is Norway really able to secure the amount of energy that we need when we need it, and at a price that is affordable. At that time, I would say that this was a fair question. And if you look at […] 2002, 2003 in this form, you’d also see that production was fairly low and that it was a combination of little rain, low temperature, and lack of import capacity that brought us into this situation.“

Norway-Electricity-Balance_2009-2013_SSB-table“In 99% of the cases we manage to get the electricity out on the market, use more of it but as you said, if we had been an island, well then we, the electricity that we [sold to] Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Russia, the Netherlands would have been water going over the dams.”

“The question of interconnectors in Norway is not only a question about selling electricity, or selling energy. It’s also a question about buying electricity, and it is a question about security of supply, even when the weather is dry and the weather is cold.“

Modest electricity prices for Norwegian households

In his presentation, Mr. Ola Borten Moe stated that despite increased interconnection of electricity markets the electricity price in Norway is generally less than for example on the European mainland. In the opinion of Borten Moe, the impact the interconnectiors have on the electricity price is limited in comparison with the effects of the relative supply and demand within each of the connected electricity markets. As Norway is currently increasing domestic investment in electricity generation, Mr. Borten Moe expects price reductions. In addition, Norwegians have used the revenue from the international connections to lower the electricity bill of Norwegian consumers.

Norway-Electricity-Prices_1998-2013“It is basically the balance in the market, or the lack of balance in the market, that is the most important factor for price. If we have good security of supply, a good balance in market, and slightly more production and consumption, prices will be fairly low.“

“In Norway we are interconnected, but not a part of a perfect market with the European electricity markets. There are still differences in price, between our price and the European price, and it will probably continue to be so.”

“The surplus from these interconnectors goes to lowering the electricity bills to all Norwegian consumers, including industry. So as long as they produce a surplus, it’s a direct benefit to the Norwegian household and the Norwegian industry.“

Issues to consider

The conclusion is that Norway’s experience from the increased interconnection of electricity markets has been positive. Mr. Ola Borten Moe stated that despite this fact, there are nonetheless several issues that Iceland must consider before it is possible to decide on the possible construction of a subsea cable between Iceland and Europe.

Iceland-Energy-Harpa-September-2014_Norway-Borten-Moe_Ragnheidur-Elin-Arnadottir_Hordur-Arnarson_Ketill-Sigurjonsson-HarpaBorten Moe expressed that the Norwegians emphasize the importance of utilizing their infrastructure in a sound economical manner and that further disturbance of the environment must be based on guaranteed profitability. He also mentioned that although subsea electric cables would generally have the effect that electricity prices at the markets at each ends of the cable have the tendency to be similar, at least to some extent, nevertheless it is the supply and demand in each market that is dominating in deciding the prices in each of the markets. As Borten Moe said:

“We like to have control over this kind of infrastructure, we need to know how much goes in, how much goes out. We need to keep control about how the values flow and who gets the benefits.“

Iceland-Energy-Harpa-September-2014_Borten-Moe_Ragnheidur-Elin-Arnadottir_Hordur-Arnarson_Ketill-Sigurjonsson-panel-questions

“It is possible to foresee a future when we use subsidies to get new electricity into the market, taxpayers’ money, new production capacity, and we sell this production capacity with a loss to the European markets and we lose both money and Norwegian nature. And that, of course, would be a whole different story.”

“If you have two markets and you make an interconnector, you will basically have a price that are more of the same. That’s the law of nature and the whole ratio for building such an interconnector. But it’s also fair to say that it’s also a question of what kind of capacity you introduce. In a perfect market, you would have the same price, but these are not perfect markets.”