High Potential for Synergies
If Europe is to succeed in decarbonising its electricity system, Germany and Norway must play a key role. Their engagement and collaboration will be decisive for achieving Europe’s climate and energy goals.
Germany’s Energiewende is a process of historic proportions and of global importance. In light of Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear power, the strong growth of renewables is the only alternative to fossil fuels, which negatively impact the climate. Wind and solar are playing and will play a key role in Germany and other countries. Their variability requires more power system flexibility, which is a key challenge for the Energiewende. While several options exist and others are being developed, existing hydropower reservoirs can be a relevant part of the answer to the flexibility challenge. Compared to Norway, Germany’s natural hydropower reservoir supply is very small.(1)
Thanks to its natural endowments and previous investments, Norway holds half of Europe’s power storage capacity, and can further increase it without building new dams.(2) Thus, Norway holds a key to integrating large amounts of wind and solar energy in other countries, namely by providing large-scale, cost-effective and emission-free indirect power storage. Thereby, Norway can directly contribute to substitute large amounts of fossil-fuel-generated electricity (once the necessary connection capacities are built). At the same time, energy efficiency efforts and the planned increase of renewable generation in Norway can also help reduce the high emissions generated by the offshore oil and gas industry, as well as by road transportation.
(1) The recent study “The significance of international hydropower storage for the energy transition” published by the World Energy Council (2012) has estimated that, if Germany reaches 80% renewable electricity by 2050, the economic potential for new interconnectors between Germany and Scandinavia is between 7 GW and 12 GW over the next 40 years, of which 2 GW are already in construction (NO-DK), or in advanced planning (NO-DE). This is a more realistic estimation than the 46 to 76 GW assumed in one scenario under deliberately extreme assumptions in a study published in 2010 by the German Advisory Council for the Environment. Those extreme figures have often been quoted out of their purely hypothetical context, raising concerns in both countries. The present Joint Declaration does not take a specific position on the potentially needed interconnection capacities.
(2) Eivind Solvang, Atle Harby, and Ånund Killingtveit (2012), “Increasing Balance Power Capacity in Norwegian Hydroelectric Power Stations: A Preliminary Study of Specific Cases in Southern Norway,” SINTEF TR A7195; NVE (2011), “Økt installasjon i eksisterende vannkraftverk, Potensial og kostnader,” NVE report 10-2011.