An impressive track record
Norway is often referred to as the most sustainable country in the world. Why? Hydropower is a good place to start. While Norway has a long history of oil and gas production, authorities say 98% of its electricity production now stems from renewables, with hydropower accounting for the vast majority. A rainy climate, high elevation, and an abundance of bodies of water are nature’s gift to the country, allowing it to forge ahead in the global green energy transition.
Then there’s its electric vehicle revolution. While other nations have set ambitious EV targets, Norway has already smashed them. Almost 65% of new passenger cars sold in Norway in 2021 were electric; in addition, 22% were plug-in hybrids. Put differently, only 14% of new cars were sold without a plug. Taxes on sales of new polluting cars, zero taxes for EVs – plus a parliament pledge that all sales of new cars and vans shall be zero emission by 2025. The Norwegian government has certainly been wielding a carrot and stick approach to the country’s transport electrification. Not only that, culturally, Norwegian mindsets seem hard-wired to protect the environment.
In tune with nature
“We’ve always been very focused on nature and the environment,” says Ingvil Smines Tybring-Gjedde, former Deputy Minister in the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy and Non-Executive Director of Norge Mining. “When we struck oil 50 years ago, we promised to take care of both the oil and gas industry and the fisheries at the same time. We’ve always lived off the land and sea. So, I think it’s in our genes.”
And yet, Norway’s great passion for the environment could be the very thing that slows down its galvanizing green accomplishments. It’s a double-edged sword: you can’t have hydropower without dams – seen by some as disruptive to the natural environment and animal species. There is no wind energy generated without huge turbines – on land and in the sea. And you can’t have electric vehicles without leaving a deep carbon footprint while manufacturing batteries. For now, anyway.
We must pay for it
“We must understand that if we want the green transition fully in Norway, we must pay for it. Not just with money,” explains Ingvil Smines Tybring-Gjedde. “It has an impact on our daily lives. Not everybody is keen on that. The environmentalists want renewables, but they don’t want windmills. Likewise, there’s opposition to waterfalls being industrialised. And while EVs are seen as the way forward, some people don’t like battery factories or mining activities. Yes, the world looks to Norway as a sustainability leader, but we have faced – and continue to face – a lot of challenges.”
On the topic of mining activities, Norway has an abundance of EU Critical Raw Materials – such as vanadium, titanium, and phosphate. Norge Mining’s world class Øygrei deposit in southwest Norway is the largest and one of the most valuable in-situ deposits in Norway. This is according to the Geological Survey of Norway (NGU) – the Norwegian government agency responsible for geological mapping and research. Sites like these are gaining in importance by the day.
Everything is connected
“When it comes to the energy transition, we need the right minerals to achieve it,” adds Ingvil. “Being able to extract minerals in western countries or in Europe is really important. Not only that, but we should also strive to create more vertical value chains – such as battery production sites partnering with mines. Everything is connected. We need CRMs to create batteries, we need EVs to fuel the energy transition – and all this, unfortunately, can disrupt nature. No-one wants to – it’s a necessary evil. That’s why it needs to be done responsibly. And that’s why Norway has stringent ESG rules for all industries and companies operating in the country.”
While Norway can be seen as a green pioneer, an environmental champion, and a leader in the global clean energy transition, its position at the front of the race provides important lessons for all governments, organisations and businesses involved in fighting climate change. Its sustainable status has not been without its challenges. Add into the equation the war in Ukraine and Europe’s ongoing energy crisis and navigating the journey to Net Zero – whether you’re a renewable nation, or a country that still relies on fossil fuels – is no mean feat. As Ingvil Smines Tybring-Gjedde perfectly sums it up: “It’s complicated”.