Musings, politics and environmental issues

Archive for June, 2015

Green certificates, Iceland and nuclear power

I hereby announce a competition: find a nuclear power station in Iceland. If you can’t do that, a coal mine would do.

In point of fact, Iceland doesn’t produce electricity using nuclear power or coal, as 99.99% is produced by renewable sources – the remaining 0.01% is produced by diesel. But because Iceland is now part of the European internal energy market, it has implemented Directive 2009/28/EC on promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources. Together with regulations from AIB, the Association of Issuing Bodies, this means that other countries can “buy” renewable energy quotas from Iceland to increase their own quota of renewable energy. Icelanders then get the equivalent share of non-renewable energy detailed on their electricity bills once a year, equivalent to the amount of “green certificates” sold. So if not many green certificates are sold in a year, the percentage of nuclear energy, coal and oil-derived electricity is lower than if many certificates are sold.

This situation is ludicrous enough in itself, and I’d call it greenwashing (referring to the counties buying the certificates). But there’s a twist. Iceland prides itself on its “clean” image, especially when it comes to tourism, fish and agricultural products. So it’s not good for the image to have nuclear power effectively listed as an Icelandic energy source. However, ON, Iceland’s energy body that sees to geothermal power plants amongst other things, has come up with a solution for farmers, tourist bodies and other complainants: they can “buy” a clean image for a monetary sum and get in return a certificate saying that all the electricity their concern uses comes from renewable sources.

Totally, utterly absurd.

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New aluminium smelter under consideration in North Iceland

An Icelandic company, Klappir Development, is looking to build a new aluminium smelter in conjunction with a Chinese company, NFC, in North Iceland at Hafurstadir, between Blonduos and Skagastrond. They have apparently been looking into this since last summer if not before. The idea is to build a plant capable of producing 120,000 tonnes of aluminium a year, with a possible expansion of another 120,000 later.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first read about this. I thought, perhaps naively, that Iceland had its hands full with the half-built aluminium smelter at Helguvik in southwest Iceland, which has become a nightmare for its owners – Century Aluminium – due to energy shortages and other issues.

Energy shortage is likely to be a problem for the Hafurstadir plant too, according to Althingi member Jon Gunnarsson who is Chair of the Althingi’s commerce committee. In an interview with RUV, the Icelandic radio and television authority, he said that the idea is unrealistic as the initial energy needed would be 206 MW. Either improvements would be needed for the transmission network or new power stations would be needed.

Like Helguvik really.