Wind policy draws fire in Norway

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A Norwegian academic has launched a blistering attack on Norway's efforts to encourage development of its nascent wind power industry, denouncing government policies as "meaningless" and "logically incompatible with the maintenance of a large energy intensive industrial sector."

Speaking at the annual meeting of the Norwegian Petroleum Industry Association, Terje Hansen, professor of business administration at the Norwegian School of Economics, criticised the logic of a government which simultaneously goes in for subsidised development of wind power at NOK 0.40/kWh while delivering power to energy intensive -- and highly polluting -- heavy industries for 0.16/kWh. In reality, he said, Norway is building its electric power for NOK 0.40/kWh, which will be exported via energy intensive products such as aluminium and ferrosilicon at NOK 0.16/kWh.

Hansen has previously pointed out that the cost for wind power subsidies, set out in a recent government White Paper on energy policy, takes no account of wind's serious drawbacks, such as visual pollution. "Many wind farms are located in scenic areas where tourism is important," he says. "Isn't it strange that the same local people who are most opposed to electricity pylons and overhead power lines don't seem to take the point that wind turbines are not exactly what you would call beautification?"

Some Norwegian media have made much of Hansen's remarks, particularly on the west coast, where a number of wind projects are at various stages of planning or construction. The reports have raised hopes that Norway is finally entering the debate about how best to promote renewables in a free electricity market. Hansen pours cold water on the idea, however.

"I don't think we have a debate so far. The points in my speech were just economic banalities, and it's terrifying that these should be treated as new thinking. The markets should decide investments in energy. Wind power should be based on what is profitable. I am heavily against this kind of government subsidy in the power sector."

Although Hansen supports public funding for research and development, he does not believe wind power is profitable yet. The time for investment in wind is in the future, he says. "Maybe 20 years from now. In the meantime we should just sit and wait."

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