The Energy Transition Must Be Propelled, But How?


It is essential that the whole world transition to renewable natural energy

Jóna Bjarnadóttir, EVP Community and Environment, Landsvirkjun

One of the leading causes of climate change is the use of fossil fuels. Therefore, it is essential that the whole world transition to renewable natural energy, such as hydropower, geothermal energy, and wind- and solar power.

Iceland is in an enviable position, as it already uses hydropower and geothermal energy for electricity production and district heating, however the energy transition in transport has not yet taken place. The fact remains that renewable energy is needed for the energy transition if Iceland is to honour its international commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve the government’s goal of fossil fuel-free Iceland.

Hydropower – Geothermal Energy – Wind Power

We need to increase our electricity generation, but how do we want to utilise our natural resources, and which geographical areas do we want to use for the increased energy generation? Do we want to further utilise the rivers and areas that have already been disturbed, or do we harness new areas?

We have three options: hydropower, geothermal energy, and wind power. The utilisation of geothermal energy and hydropower has been tried and tested with excellent results here in Iceland but generating energy from wind power is new to us.

Every Power Plant Option Effects Nature

Increased production of renewable energy is key in the fight against climate change and the energy transition in Iceland, but we must bear in mind that it does impact natural conditions. Therefore, it is important to concurrently tend to nature conservation when utilising natural resources. We as a community must carefully select the areas and natural resources intended for energy generation.

Hydroelectric power and geothermal energy can often be found in areas which are considered natural treasures, such as waterfalls and geoheritage areas, which are permanently disturbed by power plants projects. Therefore, it is important to emphasise ways to expand power plants already in operation and improve the deployment of existing hydropower- and geothermal power plants.

Wind power can be harnessed in areas already disturbed, as well as non-protected areas. It is also important to consider the visual appearance, the danger it poses to birds through direct collision, noise pollution and the flickering shadow effect.

Infrastructure must be in place for all options, but site for a new wind farm can be found in the vicinity of existing roads and transmission lines, thus reducing capital expenditures of the construction, as well as requiring a smaller area for the new project.

The Visual Impact of Wind Farms Is Reversible

Every power plant option has a visual impact and changes the appearance of the landscape to a varying degree, depending on conditions and layout. The visual impact is the most substantial environmental impact from wind farms since the turbines are very tall and easily visible from a far. On the other hand, the visual impact is reversed once the turbines are removed.

We still have much to learn about wind power. We know that there are ideal conditions in several areas in Iceland for harnessing the wind, but the location decision demands proper preparation and research must be conducted on local natural conditions.

Which Energy Resources?

We are facing a turning point and critical times are ahead of us. The people of Iceland must be proactive in the international fight against climate change, we must do our part and honour our commitments.

Therefore, it is vital that we as a nation start off the conversation on how we want to generate energy for the energy transition in transport in the coming decades, thus becoming energy sustainable and the first country in the world to stop using fossil fuels.

The stakes are high.