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Chatham house - Energy Transitions 2019

State Secretary Rikard Gaarder Knutsen gave this speech at the annual  Energy Transitions conference for 2019 at Chatham House in London.

Excellences, ladies and gentlemen, It is a pleasure for me to be invited to Chatham house to discuss important energy issues. I find it most rewarding to participate in such a distinguished panel in front of a very competent audience.

I am relatively new to the scene, having assumed office just a couple of months ago. Nevertheless, I understand that many conferences on energy tend to discuss and analyse what the future will bring.

With that in mind, I recall a recent quote from Chinese tech-entrepreneur Jack Ma. He said: "There are no experts of tomorrow. There are only experts of yesterday".

This is by no means an attempt to be pessimistic, but predicting what the future holds is difficult. What technologies will prevail? What are the best solutions to achieve a low-emission society? We do not have all the answers.

That´s why I do not believe there is one silver bullet solution. We have to do a lot of things. A starting point should be: How do we address the climate challenge in a powerful and effective way? And how do we at the same time make sure that people have access to important energy services?

Furthermore, I believe the energy transition should go hand in hand with economic opportunity. Even if the future is green – red bottom lines are not sustainable in the long run. We need to work with the market, not against it. High levels of international cooperation will also be vital.  

Allow me to mention an example: The Nordic countries have a long history of cooperation and cross border trade of electricity.

Just consider how the flexible Norwegian hydropower can balance the Danish power system on days when the wind doesn’t blow. And vice versa for periods without rain and snow. I am sure my Danish colleague here agrees with me; this is a tremendous benefit for both countries.

Electrification is a key solution in the energy transition. Thanks to our hydropower, Norway already has a clean power system. For us, the central questions is; How can we use our clean and flexible energy to electrify other sectors? Here, transportation is crucial.

If you have visited Oslo you are sure to have noticed the number of electric vehicles in our streets. They are recognized by the fact that they make much less noise, they are usually allowed to use the bus lane and they have specific licence plates.

Norway currently has the highest number of electric vehicles per capita in the world, and we are on track to meet our target of all new car sales being zero emission vehicles by 2025. No wonder mr. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, is a regular visitor to Norway.

Likewise, we are moving ahead when it comes to electrifying our maritime sector. By 2022, around 70 new electric ferries will be operating on the Norwegian fjords. This is being made possible by public funding to develop the required technology and the roll - out of necessary infrastructure.

Today, as a rule, all new public tenders for car ferries require zero or low emission technology.

For longer distances, like container- and cruiseships, hydrogen might be an attractive possibility. Following the ambitious targets set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the demand for new technologies in the maritime sector is set to increase considerably in the years to come.

I do not work in the tourism industry, but I would still like to suggest a holiday destination for you. If you visit Norway in the summer, you can enjoy the spectacular views of our fjords, while traveling in an emission-free vessel that will make next to no sound. This is highly recommended!

The energy systems will undergo fundamental changes in the years to come. They will be more digitalized, more integrated and more complex. We also have to accommodate new business models, more active customers - while maintaining an efficient system operation.

For instance: How does the high number electric vehicles on Norwegian roads affect our power system? Of course, we should make sure that all of them don’t charge at the same time. Interestingly, current research look at how the EVs can become active players in the power system, by "returning" power back to the grid.

Some ten years ago, my ministry developed a national strategy for research, development and commercialisation of climate-friendly energy technology.

We asked the different stakeholders; the research community, industry and authorities to come together - and agree on a set of priorities.  This is called the ENERGY21-strategy and it guides the public funding of R&D efforts in this sector. Every few years they adjust and revise the priorities.

In the last edition "digialised and integrated energy systems" is the overall priority area for our national efforts within energy research and development.

The ambition is to look at the energy system as a whole and to prepare it in a best possible way for the future.

I am sure the energy transition will involve a number of different solutions and technologies. Today, we are discussing electrification. We could easily have had a session on the potential of hydrogen. I also believe natural gas will be a bridge towards a low-emission future. And I could go on.

Execellences, ladies and gentlemen, It is not as if we go to bed in the petroleum age and wake up in the age of renewable energy.

The path towards decarbonisation and the low emission society will take time. It is difficult to predict the future. But we should try anyway.

Going ahead, I believe cooperation to be key. Both between industry, academia and authorities – as well as between countries on the international level.

Our common challenge is to curb emissions to mitigate climate change as well as ensuring affordable and secure energy for all. A tall order – but we have to succeed.

Thank you for your attention!

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