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How Norway helps to commercialise green technology

June 3, 2020
By The Explorer

The PILOT-E scheme

When it comes to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, time is of the essence. The PILOT-E scheme provides a fast track for Norwegian companies to turn climate-friendly concepts into competitive solutions at record speed.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we only have 10 years to slash emissions dramatically, if we are to limit global warming to 1.5 °C.

Achieving this goal, or even the 2°C target of the Paris Agreement, will call for a revolution in carbon-intensive sectors such as energy, industry and transportation.

That is why Norway is working hard to nurture fresh and ambitious thinking among companies, encouraging them to create innovative zero and low-emission technologies. This makes good climate sense – and business sense – as the companies of tomorrow will have to deliver on sustainability in order to remain competitive.

To make it as simple as possible for companies to develop these technologies, Norway has established the PILOT-E funding scheme.

Brødrene Aa has led a PILOT-E project.

Eilev Instanes/Brødrene Aa

Predictability and minimal red tape

In Norway, public funding schemes are an important incentive instrument for green solutions. By shouldering some of the risk related to technology development, they give companies the financial security they need to invest heavily in developing and scaling green technology.

The PILOT-E funding scheme is a collaboration between three public sector actors: the Research Council of Norway, Innovation Norway and Enova.

The scheme focuses on environment-friendly energy technology and coordinates available financing opportunities, issuing a call for proposals roughly once a year.

If a consortium of two or more companies has a promising concept they wish to pursue, they only need to submit a single application. Those making the grade receive funding and follow-up for the entire technology development pathway, from research and development to scaling and commercial launch.

This lowers the bar for companies to go green. It ensures that good solutions do not gather dust in a drawer, but make their way onto the market and ultimately help to reduce emissions both locally and globally.

In addition to close follow-up and coordination, the PILOT-E scheme also gives companies predictable financing. Instead of having to apply for support for each phase of technology development, companies are guaranteed support until their product is firmly placed into the hands of the customer.

Rapid progress on zero-emission construction

Launched in 2015, the PILOT-E scheme has completed four funding rounds to date. The next call for proposals has a deadline of 16 September 2020.

The scheme has generated tangible results. In some cases, development and commercialisation have gone even faster than planned.

This is true for a project led by NorBetong to create an emission-free construction site. Operating cement mixers and concrete pumps and transporting heavy loads of concrete consume tremendous amounts of diesel fuel, accounting for a large share of the emissions from the construction sector. While other companies have explored various hybrid solutions and partial electrification to reduce emissions, NorBetong and its partners are concentrating on electrifying the entire process.

The project, which received funding in 2017, consists of three stages.

The first was to develop a cement mixer truck with an all-electric mixer drum powered by the electrical grid, rather than by a generator, for instance. The drum was completed much more quickly than anticipated, and is being used by NorBetong.

Performance-wise, the mixer drum has also exceeded expectations – with zero emissions of gases and particles, zero leakage of diesel onto the ground, and very little noise. The latter is an unforeseen benefit. A quiet construction site means that workers can use a normal tone of voice, which can help to prevent collisions, injury and death. Moreover, it reduces noise pollution that can cause health problems for people and wildlife in surrounding areas.

The second stage of the project is to develop a concrete pump powered by the electrical grid. The pump is planned to be completed at the end of 2021.

The third and final stage will be to develop an all-electric tractor trailer for transporting heavy loads.

NorBetong concrete plant.

According to Stein Hov, head of transport at NorBetong, PILOT-E funding has been invaluable.

“We have dared to stick our neck out and develop something completely new. So PILOT-E support has been incredibly important for us. It is always very costly to be the first one out with new technology, but PILOT-E has given us the security we need to make the leap,” he says.

Development has gone quickly precisely because the PILOT-E scheme follows the technology from start to finish.

“It has been a tremendous advantage to avoid multiple processes and to have one contact person guiding us along the entire pathway – from development to prototyping and beyond,” he says.

He adds: “Our original objective was to develop a zero-emission construction site. Now we’ve expanded that – we’re working to create a site that is both emission-free and quiet. We have a vision of zero injuries and fatalities. All-electric equipment can benefit all construction sites, even those that are not purely electric.”

Continued focus on zero-emission construction

In 2019, the PILOT-E scheme awarded NOK 95 million (roughly USD 9.5 million) to four ambitious projects. Two of these will reduce emissions on construction sites and the other two will establish a hydrogen supply chain.

The construction-related projects are working to reduce emissions in different ways. A project led by the project development and construction group Skanska will be creating a data-driven construction site, using artificial intelligence to optimise driving patterns, coordination and utilisation of construction machinery. The project will reduce emissions on existing construction sites and pave the way for the autonomous, zero-emission sites of the future.

Meanwhile, BKK, a Norwegian grid company and provider of energy solutions, is leading a project to create an “energy partner” that will play a unique role in the interface between the grid operator and the other actors in a construction project. The aim is to ensure sufficient capacity and output to sustain a zero-emission construction site.

Nasta has led a PILOT-E project.

Establishing a hydrogen supply chain

BKK is leading a hydrogen project as well. The objective here is to build a supply chain for liquefied hydrogen for the maritime industry. The project covers the entire value chain, from production, storage and transport to use on board selected vessels. The plan is to make liquefied hydrogen available for commercial shipping by Q1 2024.

Meanwhile, the Hellesylt Hydrogen Hub consortium led by Flakk Gruppen is developing a hydrogen production facility that will deliver hydrogen to ferries and cruise ships in the Geirangerfjord.

The objective is to achieve zero-emission operations in the Geirangerfjord – a UNESCO World Heritage Site that receives around 800 000 visitors a year – by producing green hydrogen locally. Emissions in the narrow fjord have been so high that the Storting (Norwegian parliament) has introduced new requirements stipulating that all cruise ships and ferries in World Heritage fjords must be emission-free from 2026.

The Geirangerfjord is a World Heritage fjord and a popular cruise destination.