To meet its 2030 climate objectives, Norway may have to phase out some of its ageing oil and gas fields prematurely unless it can deploy carbon-free electricity on more offshore platforms to reduce emissions, according to Climate Minister Espen Barth Eide.
Norway, Western Europe’s largest petroleum producer, wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990, however preliminary government numbers show that the reduction was only 4.5% as of 2021.
As water reservoirs hit 20-year lows, electricity costs skyrocketed, and scarcity fears grew, opposition to linking new offshore installations to Norway’s hydropower-dominated onshore system grew.
In an interview with Reuters, Eide stated that meeting the climate objective would be impossible without supplying renewable energy to more offshore areas.
The offshore petroleum industry accounts for around a quarter of overall emissions in Norway, owing to the usage of gas to generate power at offshore sites.
“An alternative would be an early phase out of old fields rather than retrofitting (those) with electricity,” he added.
Environmentalists could applaud such a move, but it contradicts the center-left government’s vow to “to develop, not to phase out” the petroleum industry and would enrage major oil workers’ unions.
“I think the better answer is to build more electricity capacity,” Eide remarked. “The idea is that most of the additional electricity for the platforms will come from offshore wind.”
Norway plans to build 30 gigatonnes (GW) of offshore wind capacity by 2040, which could generate nearly as much electricity as its huge hydroelectric dams on land do currently.
The country is just getting started with offshore wind, while onshore wind licensing was halted in 2019 due to popular outrage. It began again in April of this year.
Eide expressed hope that high energy prices will spur new initiatives, particularly after the parliament modified the regulations to give local governments more influence and revenue.
“We are quite confident that… we will be able to restart some of this (onshore wind projects) now,” he said, adding that Norway was also considering constructing floating solar power plants on the surface of its hydropower lakes.