The Explorer

How Norway could become the first all-electric country

BY The Explorer
  • Thinkstock Photos

    PUBLISHED MAY 30, 2018
    BY The Explorer
  • Industry organisation Energy Norway predicts that Norway could be powered by electricity alone in 2050.

    When US President Donald Trump recently met Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg, the pair discussed the Norwegian love for American Teslas.

    Tesla Model X is Norway’s fourth best-selling car, and more than half of new cars in Norway are now electric or hybrid.

    Five years ago, however, only four per cent of Norwegian cars were electric. What happened?

    Public-private cooperation

    In Norway, the norm has long been to heat private homes and other buildings using electricity, due to the country’s abundant reserves of hydropower. Over 95 per cent of Norway’s electricity is produced by clean energy from lakes, rivers and waterfalls.

    The key to electrification on a national level, however, lies just as much in the close collaboration between the public and private sectors.

    Norway’s capital, Oslo, is a remarkable example of what is possible when the two come together.

    Since 2017, Oslo has required all construction sites in public tenders to be fossil free. With zero-emission machinery used for construction projects across the city – one of Norway’s largest real estate markets – the hope is that electric machinery will become the norm elsewhere too.

    Fjellstrand AS

    Success at sea

    It is at sea, however, that some of the greatest strides are being made by Norwegian companies.

    A seafaring nation, Norway has the world’s eighth largest maritime fleet. The country has built the world’s first electric ferry and the world’s first electric fishing boat – while the world’s first electric and autonomous container ship will be delivered in 2020.

    All procurement of public ferries has since 2015 included requirements for low or zero-emission technology. And, by 2050, the country aims to produce zero greenhouse gas emissions from all its shortsea shipping and sea transport.

    In March this year, Norway even announced it would begin buying electric planes for short-haul flights – extending electrification from the ocean to the skies.

    Air transport is notoriously one the most difficult sectors to electrify, and long-haul flights are still a long way off. But more than 20 regional services in Norway could already be made electric with today’s technology. Many more are expected to follow in the coming decades.

    Ambitious targets

    The industry organisation Energy Norway has outlined 24 specific proposals for replacing other power sources with electricity across the country. If the proposals are met, Energy Norway argues, Norway is well in line to becoming the world’s first country powered solely by electricity.

    One the biggest challenges, transportation aside, will be electrifying the petroleum sector. But a promising solution being explored – including by researchers at SINTEF – is using offshore wind power as a local source of electricity for offshore oil and gas platforms.

    All these developments demonstrate the extent to which Norway is an eager and early adopter of new technology. This mindset will continue to be a crucial element in accelerating the transition to full electrification.

    Add strong political will to the mix, and chances are Energy Norway could be proved correct and Norway could become be the world’s first electric country.