By Ríkarður Ríkarðsson and Sigurður Hannesson
Iceland has countless opportunities for business development in green energy-intensive industries. A previous article by Landsvirkjun and the Federation of Icelandic Industries (SI) discussed the green opportunities inherent in the data centre sector, but there are undoubtedly many more. Green and renewable energy allows us to produce green and healthy food. The same green energy gives us the opportunity to stop spending billions of krónur on petrol and diesel every year and produce hydrogen or other environmentally friendly fuels instead. And the change to electric vehicles calls for increased manufacturing of batteries. These are all opportunities that should be grasped, to strengthen the economy as we do even more to combat climate change, using our unique global position in the field of green energy production and utilisation. Attractive new jobs will be created at the same time, adding value and guaranteeing Iceland’s energy independence.
To combat the impact of climate change and work towards sustainability, world food production is under review. Great changes are on the horizon for one of the world’s largest industries. In Iceland, we have excellent access to electricity from renewable resources, plus geothermal heat. We can use this special advantage to develop high-tech food production.
For centuries we have engaged in traditional food production for domestic consumption and export. We can build on this strong foundation, to move forward and build more food production industries using our green energy and clean water. High-tech greenhouses, algae cultivation, protein production, various biotechnologies, dehydration, lyophilization, distillation and processing are just a few examples of the opportunities within our grasp.
The potential rewards are huge: with high-tech food production in Iceland we can produce food with a smaller environmental footprint, make better use of energy resources, combine knowledge from traditional food production with innovative technological approaches, create attractive new jobs throughout the country and increase export revenue.
Hydrogen and electrofuels
In order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, more green-energy sources need to be found, to power larger vehicles such as transport lorries, heavy construction equipment, ships and aircraft in an environmentally friendly way, since the electrification of such devices is not always feasible. The production of green fuels, such as hydrogen or other electrofuels in the form of ammonia, methanol or methane is one example of the many green opportunities waiting to be seized.
Hydrogen and electrofuel production require large quantities of energy, and the demand for green hydrogen, which has been produced by the electrolysis of water using renewable energy, is expected to increase in the coming years alongside climate goals. According to Iceland’s energy policy, we intend to be free from using fossil fuels such as diesel and petrol as the main energy sources for transport by 2050.
We still have a long way to go when it comes to producing green fuels, but the opportunities are waiting.
Green fuel production has a number of benefits: decreasing petrol and diesel imports means reduced greenhouse gas emissions and foreign reserves savings for the national economy. Over time, Iceland could become completely energy independent.
The number of electric vehicles is growing rapidly, and this trend calls for a huge increase in the production of batteries. Battery manufacturers are now looking for suitable production sites in Europe. They include both established battery manufacturers and newcomers to the field. Iceland is a good option for battery manufacturing, which is energy-intensive, creates many jobs and needs land space. Many companies also emphasise a low carbon footprint for production, which our green energy can guarantee. Iceland’s location between Europe and America is also a selling-point.
With further development of data centres and the production of high-tech food products, hydrogen and electrofuels and batteries in Iceland, a more diverse foundation would be provided for the economy through increased value creation, while we take an active role in the world’s energy exchange. All things considered, it is safe to say that there are many opportunities in the green energy-intensive industry. But do we have what it takes to seize the opportunity? Now is the time for the government, municipalities and other stakeholders to show their willingness to work together to create the necessary framework to be able to further build a green energy-intensive industry in this country.
Ríkarður Ríkarðsson is Executive Vice President of Business Development and Innovation at Landsvirkun and Sigurður Hannesson is Managing Director of the Federation of Icelandic Industries (SI).