Norway’s climate secretary expects deepened UK energy ties post-Brexit

EXCLUSIVE: The UK can play an "active role" in influencing Europe's climate policy post-Brexit, according to Norway's Climate and Environment Secretary, who believes the low-carbon energy relations between the two countries will be strengthened over the next few years.

Speaking exclusively to edie, Lars Andreas Lunde also expressed his hope for the UK to remain a member of the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) following its divorce from the bloc.

Both Norway and the UK are members of the Green Growth Platform, which brings together ministers from European governments and businesses to discuss the economic opportunities of a low-carbon transition. Through membership of such organisations, Lunde believes Britain can continue to exert a positive influence on Europe’s decarbonisation agenda.

“The UK has been a strong advocate of more ambitious climate policy within the EU,” Lunde told edie on the sidelines of the Economist Sustainability Summit in London. “The Green Growth group was founded by the UK, so we hope that Britain will still play an active role in forming Europe’s climate policy.

“If not directly through the EU, then we hope it will still continue to have strong cooperation with Norway and the EU on climate policy because we need the UK. It has been a very progressive country when it comes to reaching more ambitious climate levels.”

Supply and demand

Although Norway sits outside of the EU, the country maintains strong energy ties with its continental neighbours: Norway supplies around a quarter of the EU’s energy demand, mostly by shipping gas via subsea pipelines. The Scandinavian country is also Britain’s top gas supplier, exporting around 40% of British gas demand.

The Nordic country obtains around 96% of its electricity from large hydroenergy, sourced from its vast waterfall and river systems. Lunde explained that the country aims to develop its renewable energy sector to serve as a key export market to Britain and other countries in Europe.

“We have a very good energy relationship with the EU, and we are exporting much of our gas to the UK,” he said. “And now we also want to export our electricity, because our electricity production is almost 100% renewable from hydro energy.

“We see that we might get into a situation of surplus of production and the UK, along with continental Europe, is an important market for our electricity.”

subsea interconnector being built between Norway and the UK – expected to be 740km long – will allow the two countries to share surplus renewable energy from 2020. The joint venture between National Grid and Statnett SF, the Norwegian transmission system operator, will have a capacity of 1,400MW.

“This will only strengthen the energy co-operation between Norway and the UK,” Lunde explained. “We will now not only be exporting gas, but also exporting electricity produced by renewable energy sources to the UK. This will help the UK to reach your climate goals.”

Growing urgency

Last year, Norway’s parliament voted to adopt a carbon neutral target for 2030. The need to take a rigorous stance on climate change is patent in Norway – the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard saw such extreme warmth last year that the average annual temperature was predicted to end up above freezing for the first time on record.

Moreover, figures show that Norway’s greenhouse gas emissions rose by 1.5% to the equivalent of 53.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2015. In light of the Paris Agreement signing, most politicians now want to get together to try and solve the challenge, Lunde says.

“The issue of climate change is getting higher and higher on people’s agenda,” he added. “People can see the climate is changing, and there is more and more urgency to do something. The fact that we had such a positive result from the Paris Agreement also put the issue much higher on the agenda.”

To reach its ambitious carbon-neutrality goal, the major oil and gas producer will have to lower its carbon output or purchase carbon credits to offset its emissions. Norway is leading the rest of Europe in the low-carbon vehicle transition; last year, EVs constituted nearly 40% of the nation’s newly registered passenger cars.

Meanwhile, feasibility studies for carbon capture and storage (CCS) are taking place at three locations on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, an important step in realising the Norwegian Government’s ambition to develop a full-scale CCS project.

Emissions trading

The Nordic country also aims to support its low-carbon drive by offsetting emissions through the EU ETS, the single largest international carbon pricing instrument. Norway will look to pay other nations to cut their emissions under carbon trading schemes which expire in 2020. Carbon pricing is generally expanding across the world, with China recently announcing plans to introduce a national ETS in 2017 that will cover eight sectors. Experts have claimed that the UK is unlikely to remain part of the EU ETS post-Brexit, a decision that Lunde believes would be a mistake.

“The trading system is an important part in reaching the climate goals,” Lunde said. “By using the market we are cutting emissions and getting the most for our money. We need to broaden trading systems. The ETS should be widened and not reduced. I hope that the UK can still remain in the ETS. Norway is not a member of the EU but we are still part of the ETS. That’s probably up to your negotiations with the EU.

“That’s not for us to interfere in, but of course I think it would be good if the UK stays in the ETS because the trading systems must be larger and not smaller. We will also get more stability in the prices. The bigger the market, the better it will work. We see now that other parts of the world are copying the ETS. Several cities in China will connect in the future, as will other states in Canada and the US.”

George Ogleby

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