Without the EU’s sustainability case, Norwegian hydropower may lose the trust of customers and investors. This could have significant economic consequences.
The requirement from the European Union is that green energy must contribute to a better climate, without causing serious damage to nature.
For hydropower, this means that rivers should not dry up. And that the fish are able to swim safely through the turbines without losing their heads.
It does not prevent harm to nature
not necessarily Forbidden To harm nature, when the purpose is to save the climate.
But the new EU sustainability rules are not about what is legal or illegal. They are about what it takes to be called Green color – What’s called Category.
This week, six Norwegian nature and environment organizations have united into one joint warning Against what they think is a green wash for Norwegian hydropower.
–We think it is green washing to call an old-fashioned hydropower plant, which has no minimum water flow, which has no environmental requirements, sustainable. Then we have to say as it is, that this is ancient hydro power that we might need, but we can’t define it as a green and sustainable investment, says biologist Christian Steele at Sabima.
Requested by NRK NVE How many Norwegian rivers with hydropower meet the new EU sustainability rules. They could not answer this.
Legal to destroy rivers
For 20 years, Norway has promised the EU to work for it good environmental condition In all the waters and rivers. But more than 2,300 Norwegian rivers have been so badly damaged by hydropower that this goal cannot be reached – without shutting down power stations.
In this case, the goal is nevertheless to maintain a certain basis for life in the river – the so-called Good environmental potential. But even this minimal target can be excused. Here, Norway is at the forefront of Europe.
We have granted ourselves exemptions for more than 900 hydroelectric Norwegian rivers.
By comparison, Sweden granted exceptions to only ten of its rivers and waters.
This is completely legal. But is it green?
The environmental organization Sabima put the question to the European Commission.
The answer was no. Hydropower that causes exceptions to the minimum environmental goal does not meet the rules of sustainability.
doubt the answer
The answer to Sabima comes from the European Commission’s Environment Directorate, Directorate General of Environment . Energy Nord continues to cast doubt on the outcome.
They write to NRK that this is “An email from an assistant in the General Directorate of Environment, not necessarily a response from the committee.”
– Do you think the European Commission’s answer is wrong?
– There is some doubt as to whether this is official from the European Commission. It does not match the signals we picked up. We haven’t heard anything about this from the official political side, says Evind Heloy, director of sustainability at Energi Norge.
Energi Norge has fought for so long that as long as exemptions are legal, they should also be called green. They had to present their views in several meetings with the Ministry of Oil and Energy, the Ministry of Climate and Environment and the Ministry of Finance.
“It is in the common interest of the Norwegian energy industry and the Norwegian authorities to be able to market Norwegian hydropower production as sustainable,” Says a report written by the law firm Wikborg Rein on behalf of Energi Norge.
Refuses to wash green
Energi Norge rejects the claim that this is an attempt to wash away hydroelectric power.
– But this concerns only the 900 most affected rivers. Why is it so important to also call these exceptions sustainable?
Exceptions are granted. Exceptions are legal. This means that the authority has made an assessment that the climate benefits and security of supply outweigh the environmental damage, Hiloy says.
– Does this mean that all of Norway’s hydropower is green, anyway?
– I do not rule out the possibility that there are quite a few Norwegian hydroelectric power stations with unacceptable environmental damage. The main rule will still be that exceptions should also be granted a status of sustainability, Hiloy says.
However, Energi Norge stresses that it takes inputs from nature and environmental organizations very seriously, and that it contributes to the search for environmental improvement.
See more answers from Energi Norge at the bottom of the issue.
Greens can’t cheat us
NTNU researcher Jo Halleraker cautions against this strategy.
– We can’t fool ourselves into green. It is entirely possible to ensure that Norwegian hydropower will indeed become sustainable. Solutions exist. What is needed, Hallreker says, is for the authorities to require energy producers to invest in these solutions.
The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy will not answer directly whether it supports Energi Norge in the fight for green labeling of exemptions.
– But there is no doubt that Norway defends Norwegian interests and Norwegian hydroelectricity, says Foreign Minister Andreas Peland Eriksen.
– So it remains uncertain how the new sustainability rules will affect Norwegian hydropower. Biland says the EU is working with evidence, and we look forward to publishing it.
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