Cables from Norway to the continent and the British Isles, the energy crisis on the continent and the war in Ukraine gave in a short time Norwegian hydroelectric power a completely new “ocean”.
Power generation in southern Norway no longer enjoys “technological and geographical protection”. This, combined with the increasing commercial exploitation of industry in Norway and the new trade policy regimes in Europe, has also led to an increase in the “Europeanization” of hydropower.
This creates an unusual situation in Norway. We are used to endless amounts of cheap, renewable energy. Hydropower has given us a profitable metallurgical industry. With the emergence of slums around our major cities, hydropower has also provided cheap electric heating. We were barely done before the oil faded. We Norwegians have been spoiled with energy ever since!
That’s how things turned out in energy-poor Europe in the 1970s, and that’s how it turns out more than ever in 2022.
Today, energy from Norway is important for internal temperature and industrial production also in the British Isles and on the continent. It immediately breathed new life into Norway’s dispute with the European Union. Energy debates tend to follow the front lines of the EU dispute. Opponents of membership also oppose cables and the export of energy, and it is clear that the cables have made many opponents of the European Union. Supporters defend both parts and like to talk about “European solidarity”. In this way we get a discussion characterized by well-known political and ideological fronts in politics and business.
Norwegian politics is characterized by a well-established party structure and a protected “class” of politicians as well as a business community controlled by a small number of large land-rent oligopolies with “narrow” experience, few products and short value chains. The real challenge we face, of course, is not how to protect our standard of living and our future ability to create value by avoiding contributing to securing clean energy shipments to Europe, but almost the opposite: how to secure energy production and delivery that leads to the largest and most significant impact on private finances!
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This is how we thought about oil when Statoil was created. We should also think like this today, when the oil and energy markets are about to integrate into the energy market. We are not stopping this development. Instead, we should look at the opportunities it can provide.
Not least, we should think about what we can do to increase our energy production, both for domestic needs and to increase exports. We are unlikely to do well for ourselves, if they do not do well in our markets in Europe. If our friends in Europe desperately need new energy supplies, we have an equally huge potential to generate new energy and develop our own advanced and new technologies and industry rather than remaining as a pure commodity exporter with high exposure to risk and limited value creation capacity.
Norway is located on one of the largest thorium deposits in the world. Thorium is a suitable metal as a raw material for a nuclear energy technology quite different from that based on uranium today. Thorium-powered power generation without the downsides of a uranium-based power industry. It is much less polluting in its indoor and outdoor environment than all other nuclear power and most other industrial activities. Thorium is also not suitable for the production of nuclear weapons. Moreover, thorium not only provides huge amounts of energy, but also indicates an entirely different and much greater potential for ripple effects from the oil, hydro, solar and wind industries. Thus, the way forward is not entirely without challenges, but they are of a political rather than practical nature.
Great political will and great foresight are required if we are to succeed in creating a new energy industry and an entirely new industry. However, this is the challenge. All responsible politicians care about the climate, the environment, and the country’s future finances without oil revenue. While the “climate policy” and its “renewable energy” presuppose a lower standard of living for many social differences and an increase in social differences in Norway (as is the case globally), thorium-generated power will save the environment and ensure cheap electricity for households and businesses. It would be possible to export energy from thorium, but above all it would be a source of technology exports and new export industries.
This stirs up little enthusiasm in the established energy industry and among investors already investing heavily in wind and solar-based energy production, and certainly not among narrow-minded politicians who have looked blindly at conventional solutions. But the development should be optimistic for everyone who fears foreign cables and worries about the current export industry and the country’s future export earnings.
Norway has great potential to take the lead in developing thorium-based nuclear energy, in the same way that we have previously taken the lead in hydropower and petroleum-based energy production at sea.
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