People like to put all their cards in electrification, where the Norwegian electricity is unconditionally presented as clean renewable power. Although the entire 98% of Norwegian energy production comes from renewable sources, we also sell most of this as guarantees of origin, where most of this is sold out of the country to foreign electricity customers. A guarantee of origin is a security that guarantees that the electricity comes from renewable sources. As the guarantees of origin are sold separately from the physical electricity, it is wrong to give the impression that electricity without guarantees of origin is also clean and renewable. Giving such an impression comes close to fraud, i.e. selling the same product in two places at the same time as green and renewable.
The national goods declaration has a different composition to the Norwegian production mix because it takes into account the purchase and sale of guarantees of origin. In this way, double counting of the renewable properties in the product declaration is avoided. When a power producer has sold a guarantee of origin for renewable power separately from the power production, the power can no longer be declared to the customer as renewable. The majority of the guarantees of origin issued for Norwegian power production are sold abroad. This provides additional income for Norwegian producers of renewable energy.
Yet this is exactly what politicians, energy companies and lobby organizations do when they use large resources to sell the idea that all energy used for electrification is both green and renewable. This is at best a flat lie, and at worst what is called in the Criminal Code deceitful double selling (§385). In any case, this is what has become the general consensus in society, that the power we use for electrification is both green and clean/renewable. The fact that we have already sold most of this abroad through guarantees of origin has in many ways become something that should not be mentioned or talked about. It seems that it is best if the population can continue to live under the delusion that our own renewable energy production makes a difference in Norway. The arguments for increasing this production disappear when the population is informed about how the scheme with guarantees of origin actually works.
How much does the power we sell out of the country amount to in terms of guarantees of origin?
According to NVE's Product Declaration for 2018, we produced in 2018; 146.8 TWh of which 138 TWh were sold as guarantees of origin and 105.7 TWh of these were sold out of the country. The amount of energy we sell out of the country in the form of guarantees of origin is included in the buyer countries' climate accounts, and our own accounts therefore appear dirtier than they actually are. The power we sell as guarantees of origin must be replaced in terms of accounting with what is called the European power mix.
Total Norwegian consumption and transmission losses in the grid amounted to 136.7 TWh in 2018. Since guarantees of origin were redeemed for 19.7 TWh in Norway in 2018, the volume for customers who do not buy power with guarantees of origin amounts to 117 TWh. The product declaration shows the composition of energy sources for these customers. As a percentage, guarantees of origin were redeemed for 14% of the power purchased in Norway in 2018. After "known properties" have been added to the product declaration, i.e. Norwegian production for which no guarantees of origin have been issued as well as expired guarantees of origin, it corresponds to the "unknown power" which is replaced by European residual mix 105.7 TWh.
The power that ordinary electricity consumers use, whether they are going to brew a cup of coffee or fill up the Tesla, thus consists of 58% fossil power, 33% nuclear power and only 9% renewable power. At the same time, it is also this power mix that is used for most of the electrification that takes place in society. Because of this arrangement, Norwegian power is far from clean.
Electrification of the North Sea
The hydropower we produce is stated by NVE to have a climate cost of 6g CO2/kWh, while the power mix for the average household is on the whole 520 g CO2/kWh. For comparison, NVE states gas power (which is used for offshore power generation) to 566 g CO2/kWh. One must therefore electrify offshore, which only gives a very small difference in climate costs compared to the current solution. With an enormous consumption of metals and materials for cables, transformers to build out the infrastructure from land to the installations, one thus risks a negative climate account for electrification, at the same time that offshore installations like to keep the gas turbines as a standby.
It will be rather pointless to initiate an expensive upgrade of the supply network between the mainland and the installations in the North Sea, which does not provide any significant climate benefit. You will probably have a better climate account overall by keeping gas as an energy source and upgrading the gas turbines to better and more efficient models than carrying out a very costly development from the mainland which, in turn, may also have a negative climate effect.
With what power is it actually to be used for electrification?
No gain with sea wind
Producing power for electrification offshore will also not have any positive benefit from the development of offshore wind. The development is not only financially expensive, but it also provides no climate benefit.
These are huge constructions that will have a material consumption in turbines and infrastructure that require large subsidies from the general fund and also contribute to huge climate emissions for extraction, production, shipping, assembly, operation, maintenance and later removal.
The wind turbines are also a very unstable energy source that only delivers a maximum of about 31% of the operating period. This means that the offshore installations that depend on a stable power supply will still use gas power most of the time. The risk is that the gas turbines still have to burn continuously to cope with fluctuations in the energy supply from wind power. In other words, offshore wind can have a negative effect where large amounts of energy are wasted due to wind power's very unstable properties.
More renewable power production does not necessarily have a positive climate effect in Norway
The argument about developing even more renewable power cannot be expected to contribute in a positive direction either, because this additional power will also be equipped with guarantees of origin. It is hardly realistic to imagine that the foreign customers will buy fewer of such guarantees when more become available in the market. One therefore expects that the Norwegian power mix for those who do not buy electricity with guarantees of origin will be kept fairly stable regardless of how much additional renewable production we physically put into the electricity grid.
The physical power produced in Norway is, after all, 98% from renewable sources, but the sale of guarantees of origin out of the country gives us an unnaturally bad national climate account. In other words, we give up most of our own climate benefits with renewable power production out of the country with the sale of guarantees of origin.
Ending the scheme with the sale of guarantees of origin out of the country will in itself be one of the biggest single contributions to Norway reaching its binding climate targets.
- Read more about our requirement to OED regarding upgrading the gas turbines on offshore installations here
The matter will be updated…