August 8, 2015

Electricity, cars, and Norway

This is the Geirangerfjord. It's one of the most popular sites to visit on Norway's coast, and it's not hard to see why. The surrounding mountains are stunningly beautiful. The walls are improbably steep. Which means that there aren't too many people living on those near-pristine slopes.

Photo by Frédéric de Goldschmidt

The fjord also illustrates how Norway can become a zero-carbon society.

Electricity generation.
Firstly, the tall, steep walls of Norway's fjords are ideal sites for electricity-generating hydropower plants. Commonly called "white coal" when I was growing up, hydropower is a near-zero emissions supply of electricity with the highest EROEI (energy return on energy invested) of any renewable energy.

Norway regularly generates more electricity than it consumes, exporting its surplus energy to neighbouring countries.

"Green battery".
The fjord's walls are not only beautiful on the surface, inside they are full of tunnels. Sealing off a water-filled tunnel can create a reservoir of water that, when released, can give an instant boost to power generation. This is great for backup power for neighbouring countries like Denmark and Germany, helping to smooth the variations in output of its growing renewable energy sector. One bonus of this proposal is that it doesn't have the risks of nuclear energy, which is frequently proposed as the backup power for renewable energy for those times that the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing.

Electric fleet of cars.
The Norwegian government is encouraging the use of electric cars
through incentives. EVs enjoy an exemption of almost all taxes; this is a big deal since, as in all Scandinavian countries, Norwegian vehicles taxes on ordinary cars are stunningly high. The deal is further sweetened by such perks as free parking in all public spaces, and a waiver on tolls. Just about the only thing they don't do is deliver daily gravad lax to EV owners.

Not content with being the current EV capital of the world, Oslo has decided to raise the bar: they want all new cars sold in Norway to be zero-emissions by 2025. And since the cars will be powered by hydro, these will be truly zero-emissions vehicles, not merely zero tailpipe-emissions.

Now, if they get Statoil, Norway's oil company, to stop pumping crude off the Norwegian shore, Norway would be the perfect knight, the Sir Galahad who will lead our fight against climate change. We need one.



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1. The charged issue of electric cars
2. Tesla Taxis
3. The EV chicken-and-egg problem has hatched several solutions
4. Cars are cheap in the US


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