Huge oil producer goes big on clean energy

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
Huge oil producer goes big on clean energy

As well as being a big player in fossil fuels, Norway is now making waves when it comes to clean energy. The government has said that 98 percent of its "electricity production" comes from renewable sources, with hydropower a crucial part of that mix.

Norway is traditionally known as an oil producer and is home to an abundance of natural resources. According to the Norwegian government, it is the eighth largest producer of oil in the world, and the third largest producer of gas, meeting more than 20 percent of the European Union's gas demands.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration, however, states that in 2015 Norway ranked 15th when it came to the total production of "petroleum and other liquids."

Regardless, ambitious targets have now been made as Norway looks to set an example for others and lead the way to a cleaner planet. The country is committed to slashing greenhouse gas emissions by "at least" 40 percent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

It is also embracing electric vehicles. The first three months of 2016 saw Norway register 11,124 pure electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, according to information provider IHS.

"It is important that highly industrialized countries in the western world really act as front runners, otherwise it will be very hard to mobilize the less developed economies and the developing economies that will represent an increasing part of global energy consumption in the few years ahead," Christer Gilje, from state-owned power firm Statnett, told CNBC's Sustainable Energy.

Statnett operates around 11,000 kilometers of power lines and 150 stations across Norway.

"For Norway, it has been important to not only talk as, but also act as, a front-runner when it comes to climate action," Gilje added.

Blessed with its natural resources, Norway produces more renewable energy than it consumes, with Gilje saying that this meant it could export renewable power to other countries.

The CEO of renewables producer Agder Energi, Tom Nysted, said that work was being done to provide more countries with Norway's clean energy. "We are now building two new interconnectors from Norway, to the U.K. and Germany," he said.

With regards to the rise in electric vehicles in Norway, Statnett's Gilje said as long as a vehicle was charged using a renewable source such as hydropower, it would help to play a "significant role in reducing CO2 emissions from transportation."

Norway represents just one part of a wider transformation in Europe. The Renewable Energy Directive, for example, requires the EU as a whole to "fulfil at least 20 percent of its total energy needs with renewables by 2020", according to the European Commission.

For Jacquelin Ligot, an expert in sustainable energy and climate finance, countries in northern Europe are becoming "quite advanced in energy efficiency and renewable energy, because they have established frameworks … that are conducive to adopting energy efficient behaviors and installing renewable energy capacity."