Norway - Green certificates could bring big boost for wind

NORWAY: This year kicked off with one of the biggest changes in the Norwegian energy market for many years.

On 1 January a green electricity certificates scheme was introduced, obliging energy providers to source a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources.

Administered in co-operation with neighbouring Sweden - with whom Norway already shares a common electricity market - the new system is estimated to deliver NOK 0.65-0.70/kWh (EUR0.08-0.09/kWh) for Norwegian wind-farm owners.

The first two installed turbines covered by the support system, of 800kW each, are currently awaiting connection to the grid and will begin producing certificates in the spring. By 2014, several large wind farms are expected to start operating under the system.

"It's too early to say exactly what kind of impact it will have on the market, but reports suggest that by 2020 around 14TWh of new electricity production in Norway will be based on green certificates," says Andreas Thon Aasheim, an adviser at the Norwegian Wind Energy Association. Up to half of this could come from wind energy.

While Norway has traditionally been slow to divest some of its oil wealth into other energy sectors, international legislation is forcing it to put a portion of oil and gas profits back into renewables projects, adds Aasheim. "Simply put, every time we discover a new oil field we need to add some renewable source to compensate for it and ensure that we meet our European renewables targets," he says.

Norway's installed wind capacity stood at 491MW at the end of 2011, up from 448MW in 2010. Several large developments were in the process of coming online in 2011 but were not yet fully operational and so were not included in official figures. These include 73.6MW at Hog Jaeren and the 25MW second phase of Nygardsfjellet. Aasheim expects a new rush of investment decisions to start soon, triggered by the green certificates system.

Offshore wind energy still accounts for just 2.3MW of Norway's total capacity and this looks unlikely to change in the near future. "We just don't have enough shallow waters along our coastline and it's too expensive to go into deeper waters for offshore developments unless there is newer cheaper technology to support it," says Aasheim.

The biggest challenge for Norway's wind-energy sector is poor grid availability. Many regions have an energy deficit but are unable to add capacity because the grid needs upgrading first.