The Minister of Petroleum and Energy's speech at the Energy Conference between Norway and the EU

Minister of Petroleum and Energy Terje Aasland held this speech at the Energy Conference between Norway and the European Union in Brussels on 24th October 2023.

Updated on 7 November 2023.

Check against delivery.

Dear Commissioner, Excellencies,

Distinguished guests.

It is a pleasure for me to be here with all of you today.

The EU and Norway enjoy a particularly strong relationship as neighbours, partners, and allies.

We share common fundamental values and common regulatory framework through the European Economic Area (EEA).

We share ambitious goals for climate action and in the green transition, while ensuring energy security, as affirmed by the EU-Norway Green Alliance of April this year.

Energy is at the heart of the EU – Norway cooperation. And it has been so, for quite some time. The last couple of years have truly shown the importance of this cooperation.

When Russia started using energy as a weapon, Norway quickly increased our production of gas to strengthen European energy security.

The government did some adjustments to the production permits.

But really – the companies on the Norwegian continental shelf did all the work. They increased production by eight percent from 2021 to 2022.

Gas production has been somewhat lower so far in 2023   

due to increased maintenance periods and some unplanned events at our facilities.

We expect high production for the rest of the year and also in the coming years.

We know that the European energy situation is still very difficult, although it has improved significantly compared to last year. I hope we will avoid very high prices this winter.

The short- and medium-term future is still marked by uncertainty.

Just a couple of weeks ago, we had an expert panel present a report on possible measures to keep energy prices low in Norway.

While presenting their report, the panel leader, director Inge Røinaas Gran from SINTEF Energy said: “It is likely that the unlikely will happen again.”

Their main conclusion is not unexpectedly that we need a surplus of energy, better grid capacity and more energy effective solutions.

There is no quick fix – as governing politicians all throughout Europe have said quite a lot these last two years.

High prices – not just energy prices, but in general, lead people to search for easy solutions. Too easy solutions I might add.

In Norway for instance, nationalistic and populistic solutions are becoming increasingly popular, and it is difficult to gain support for the long term perspectives.

The energy market balances supply and demand.
That is important.

Europe needs imported gas. Both for households and for the industry. 

As mentioned, we expect to maintain high and stable production for the next three to four years.

After that, production will gradually start to decrease.

That decrease will accelerate in the 2030s, unless we discover and develop new resources.

When I met with former EU Commission Vice-President Timmermans last summer, I was happy to hear that the EU supports Norway’s continued exploration and investments to bring gas to the European market.

My government will do what we can to facilitate that the Norwegian continental shelf will continue as a reliable source of gas to Europe.

That also includes a heightened focus on security.

Even though we have no indications of direct threats to Norwegian infrastructure.

We take security on the continental shelf very seriously.

We have increased our presence and protection measures around energy infrastructure.

The police and the Norwegian Armed Forces have implemented several preparedness measures, both on land and at sea.

Security of supply is connected to the energy transition and our joint climate goals.

As the International Energy Agency stated in their latest report: if investments in fossil energy are cut too early, we will get unstable markets and volatile energy prices.

We risk that people will resist the solution if it affects their personal economy too hard.

But – it is possible to achieve both energy security, and push for energy transition at the same time.

The transition is too slow. This is regrettable.  

Popular resistance is a part of it, but we are also building new renewable power plants too slowly, and we are not strengthening the grid fast enough.

There are significant challenges in the value chains for renewable energy. Growing costs, increased demand and lack of manpower to deliver what is needed.

The supply chains must be strengthened.

We are facing not just a green transition, but in some ways a total restructuring of our energy system.

We are going to reach net zero emissions, while at the same time securing existing jobs and establishing new ones.

In order to reach net zero without threatening our energy security we need more renewable power, stronger grids and increased energy efficiency.

We also need carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), hydrogen and a well-functioning electricity market.

Therefore, we are making big investments into the development of new clean and low-emission energy technologies.

Like CCS, hydrogen and offshore wind.

We have all the tools that we need to succeed. The technologies are tested, and we know that they work.

Norway can permanently store CO2 on the Norwegian continental shelf. We have done so for 27 years.

And we have more than 50 years’ experience from offshore activities, and are well-positioned for the net zero future.

We must contribute to security and predictability in people’s lives. That means that the energy transition must be just, and we must strive for low prices to avoid growing differences between rich and poor.

Climate friendly and energy efficient choices must be realistic options for everyone – not just for those who are able to pay.

This underlines how important it is that we succeed with the new technologies.

If we can decarbonize, we can achieve both our climate goals and energy security without multiplying the electricity prices.

CCS is one of the keys to succeeding.

With the Longship project, we are launching the world’s first full-scale open-source CCS project.

This has spurred more CCS activity in Europe – we got the ball rolling.

I am happy that the European Commission has taken a strong interest in CCS and is working on an industrial carbon management strategy.

In my opinion, CCS is also crucial to kick-start a value chain for low emission hydrogen.

Before we have a big enough surplus of energy to produce green hydrogen on a large scale, blue hydrogen can contribute to establishing the supply and demand that we need.

Norway has an exciting cooperation with Germany regarding hydrogen, which I am looking forward to follow further.

The third new and promising industry for Europe is offshore wind. We are now making big efforts in also becoming world leading on floating offshore wind.

Today, Sørlige Nordsjø 2 and Utsira Nord are the most advanced areas on the Norwegian Continental Shelf. One bottom fixed and one floating.

They are part of the first competition for areas in Norwegian waters and will contribute to at least 3 GW of offshore wind.

We plan to hold the next round in 2025 and to follow up with new areas regularly towards 2040.

It has been important for us to build a well-designed regulatory framework, including the use of non-price and pre-qualification criteria that reward high quality products, ripple effects and innovation.

However, for Sørlige Nordsjø 2 we have seen the need to adjust the criterias to keep ut the pace in the offshore wind development.

To deliver on our common ambitions – as set out in the Ostend Declaration – it must be possible to award areas based on non-price criteria combined with competition for state aid at a later stage.

This will ensure that we attract developers who are fit for the task and deliver projects that contribute to development of a sustainable offshore wind industry while at the same time keeping costs down.

I wholeheartedly agree with the provisions in the Wind Package launched by the Commission today, in particular when it comes to improved auction design.

This also has to be reflected in the state aid guidelines, which need to take into account that floating technology is more immature that bottom fixed.

As mentioned earlier, we need to strengthen the value chains.

It is of vital importance that we deliver sustainable offshore wind projects which contribute to developing supply chains.

This also needs to be taken into account when evaluating the state aid measures for the new and immature technologies.

The challenges of climate change will increase the demand for both specific resources and clean energy. Balancing these challenges is at the core of the energy transition.

Seabed minerals can provide part of the answer.

Minerals are needed for solar panels, wind turbines and batteries. Minerals are known to be present in the deeper parts of the Norwegian Sea.

We have initiated a process for opening areas on our continental shelf for exploration for such minerals.

This could, in time, be a field of further development in the EU-Norway cooperation – if the minerals can be recovered in a sustainable manner.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are dependent on good, international relationships. The EU and Norway have decades of close cooperation to build on, based on mutual trust and interdependence.

Energy and climate are the foundation for our relation.

We are well set to tackle future challenges together.

We intend to be a stable and predictable supplier of energy to Europe for many years to come.

We look forward to the continued cooperation.

Thank you for your attention!