Both the Conservatives and the Labor Party are opening the door for power development in protected watercourses, but Rødt is concerned and believes it will face strong opposition. – Like deciding that Nidaros Cathedral should be demolished, says MDG.
Last week, leader Terje Aasland (Labor Party) in the Storting’s energy and environment committee opened to assess power developments in protected watercourses, to ensure that Norway has enough electricity for increased industrial investment and electrification.
I Parliamentary Question Time On Wednesday, the Conservative Party’s energy policy spokesman Nikolai Astrup gave his support to assess developments in protected watercourses, which the Center Party and the Green Party also support.
– The Minister can count on the Conservatives’ support to assess precisely gentle development in protected watercourses if it is not at the expense of the conservation values and with new technology, Astrup said.
He will not wait for the government’s planned energy commission, but believes the potential should be mapped now.
– The Conservatives believe that we must upgrade existing hydropower plants, but we must also look at protected watercourses. We need more power in Norway over the next ten years, and then we must look at all alternatives, says Astrup to E24.
Hydropower in protected watercourses can also help reduce floods, he points out. Astrup believes offshore wind can provide a lot of power from around 2030, but says that Norway also needs more production in the short term.
– We need that power now, he says.
According to NVE 390 Norwegian watercourses are protected. These are some of them:
- Gaula and Øvre Glomma in Trøndelag
- Sjoa and Etna in the Inland
- Rauda and Skjerva in Vestfold and Telemark
- Bjerkreimsvassdraget and Espedalselva in Rogaland
- Søgneelva and Lona in Agder
- Dingja, Flåmselvi, Gaularvassdraget and Nausta in Western Norway
- Store Tverråga and Vefsna in Nordland
- Tana, Grense Jakobselv and the Alta-Kautokeinovassdraget (excluding the Alta development) in Troms and Finnmark
Have no concrete plans now
In the Storting on Wednesday, Minister of Climate and Environment Espen Barth Eide said that he would not rule out looking at new technological solutions that allow water to be extracted in ways that “almost do not appear in nature”.
According to Eide, however, there are no concrete plans for developments in protected areas now. He also reiterated that “the time for the major hydropower developments is over”.
– It is not the case that we are today discussing a concrete measure for the downsizing of protected watercourses, Eide said in the Storting.
(Here you can read minutes from the whole debate on protected watercourses in the Storting’s Question Time.)
– I think this was defensive. The government should be more offensive and map out which watercourses may be relevant, says Astrup.
– Why not just bet on cheap wind power?
– On wind power, a job must be done with the Planning and Building Act, and we know that this is controversial. And it is possible to release a lot of power in a gentle way in watercourses that are already there, says Astrup.
– You are not afraid of a new Alta match?
– Absolutely not. There is no question of damming protected watercourses or laying rivers in pipes. This involves, for example, directing parts of the water flow to produce power elsewhere, or utilizing water from tributaries. This can be done without people noticing much, because the technology has developed tremendously, he says.
Labor and Social Democrats open for new assessment of protected watercourses
– The worst possible outcome
It was second deputy chair Sofie Marhaug (R) in the energy and environment committee who raised the issue of protected watercourses in the Storting on Wednesday.
She is concerned that Eide does not provide an absolute guarantee of continued protection.
– It was the worst possible outcome. It seems that a new alliance has emerged to develop protected watercourses, with the Conservatives, the Green Party and the Labor Party, says Marhaug to E24.
The government will have to defy the budget partner SV and enter into a partnership with H or Frp to develop protected watercourses. The governing parties Ap and Sp are dependent on budget support from SV, which is against such developments.
– Do you think the Labor Party will defy SV and implement this?
– They have not committed to anything, but they say they are open to assess it. But the Labor Party has previously wanted to strengthen the protection of watercourses. Climate Minister Espen Barth Eide could not guarantee today that he will not develop protected watercourses, says Marhaug.
The Minister on electrification of the shelf: – Gives higher power prices in isolation
– Like deciding that Nidaros Cathedral should be demolished
Rauand Ismail (MDG) is also skeptical about the development of protected watercourses. He believes that protection must be permanent in order to have any points.
– If the Labor Party has turned around, I believe that it is an earthquake for Norwegian nature conservation, Ismail said in the debate on Wednesday.
– To abolish protection because you suddenly need hydropower, is like deciding that Nidaros Cathedral should be demolished because the politicians in Trondheim suddenly find that they need a new shopping center. It would never have happened, he says.
Nikolai Astrup rejects the comparison.
– It is a comparison that is completely out of place. We will continue to have the beautiful waterfalls we have, which are protected. But when you visit a number of local communities that have protected watercourses and are exposed to regular floods with enormous damage to nature and society, there is no doubt that that water could have been better utilized to produce power and not destruction, says Astrup.
Increasing power demand
The discussion about new developments in protected watercourses has emerged after a winter with sky-high electricity prices. New estimates from NVE and Statnett show that the Norwegian power surplus will decrease sharply in the next few years, and increased consumption without new power production will result in more expensive electricity.
In recent years, a lot of wind power has been developed on land in Norway, but it is controversial. Historically, hydropower has also been very controversial, with dramatic protests against developments in Mardøla and Alta.
– If they start tampering with protected watercourses, they must not think that there will be less resistance than what we have seen against wind power, Marhaug says.
Will drop electrification
Red would rather drop the electrification of the shelf and regulate the export of electricity than start with new power developments in protected watercourses.
– Then the need for power in Norway will not be as great as many assume, says Sofie Marhaug.
– But without electrification you do not reach the climate goals, possibly others will have to pay more for climate cuts?
– Or we have to phase out the oil industry. That is Rødt’s answer, says Marhaug.
– But it can potentially cost hundreds of billions?
– We believe that the oil industry must be replaced by other industries. It will be expensive. But Rødt will spend oil money on infrastructure and restructuring and not just on current expenses, says Marhaug.
Must expand sufficiently
Astrup is critical of Rødt’s proposal to drop electrification on the shelf and say no to new power development.
– Rødt wants to phase out rather than develop the oil industry, and says no to all new power production that can develop Norway. It is a policy for full brakes in Norway, with increased unemployment and economic ruin, he says.
He supports electrification, provided there is sufficient access to power. He will ensure this through gentle development of, among other things, hydropower and wind power on land.
– I believe we must develop sufficient renewable energy to maintain our competitive advantage with reasonable power, in order to achieve the climate goals and develop new, power-intensive, land-based industry based on renewable energy, he says.