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Energy Transition – Visions for the future

State Secretary Tony C. Tiller gave this speech at the Energy Transition conference at NTNU on September 14th 2020.

Checked against delivery. 

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure to attend this webinar on visions for the future, generously hosted by our leading tech university – NTNU.

My name is Tony Christian Tiller and I am state secretary at the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy.

I was invited to speak at the original Energy Transition Conference back in March. That seems like ages ago. Since then – The COVID-19 pandemic has not only influenced our daily lives and how we organize our work, it has also influenced energy markets all over the world.

However – there are reasons for optimism. According to the Low Emission Scenario, recently published by Statkraft, renewable energy has continued to grow, even after the outbreak of the virus.

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That serves as a bridge to our topic of today – visions for the future.

The future is difficult to predict. Some would even say impossible. Nevertheless, we need a starting point and we need to have an idea of where we are heading.

What we do know is that change is happening faster than ever. Driven by the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to fuel a growing world economy, we are experiencing a transformation in the way that we produce, distribute and consume energy.

For Norway our ambition is to achievie a  low emission society in 2050, where we have reduced between 90 and 95 per cent of our emissions, compared to 1990.

That is a bold target and there are many unanswered questions concering how we can achieve it. What technologies will prevail? What will need to be developed? What is the best overall approach to achieve a low-emission society? Perhaps we should even expect the unexpected.

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There are many items on the energy transition menu – and I only have time to mention a few as I have ten minutes at my disposal.

Very shortly summarized I see three main reasons for optimism.

First, we have the resources.

In our case, Norway is blessed with abundant natural resources. We are known for our considerable oil and gas resources, but within renewable energy, our domestic electricity supply consists almost entirely of flexible hydropower. Furthermore, we have excellent wind resources – both onshore and offshore.

Currently, there is also a lot of momentum around hydrogen. This June our government launched a new national hydrogen strategy. The strategy document addresses both production and use of hydrogen, in Norway and to some extent internationally.  The maritime sector is, together with heavy transportation and industrial processes, touted as the most relevant sectors for use of hydrogen.

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I will jump quickly to my second reason for optimism.  That is technology.

If we are to reach our objective of a low emission society, we must successfully develop, adapt and implement new technologies in several areas.

Technology is a key ingredient towards achieving a low emission society.

Some might be minor improvements to already existing technologies; others may be truly ground-breaking and bold innovations. In any case, we need them all.

Allow me to mention a couple of examples.

Last week, my minister – Tina Bru – attented the opening of a new battery lab at Kjeller, just outside of Oslo.

The demand for batteries is expected to grow significantly in the years to come. Much of this growth is driven by electric mobility. This is an area that is very familiar to us Norwegians. Electrification is happing as we speak and the transport sector is very important towards meeting Norwegian climate commitments.

Just a minor improvement in battery capacity will have a great impact.

The second example I would like to mention is offshore wind.

In august 2019, the Norwegian government decided to support the development of Hywind Tampen, a floating offshore wind farm, with in total 2,3 billion NOK through the state enterprise ENOVA.

When completed, this will be the world’s first floating offshore wind farm supplying renewable power to offshore oil and gas installations. The Hywind Tampen project will contribute to further developing floating offshore wind technology and reduce the costs of future floating offshore wind farms.

This is a ground-breaking project as it will truly demonstrate the potential of offshore wind in really deep waters.

I could go on mentioning many more examples. No matter how different our starting points may be, research and technology development will be essential for all aspects of the energy transition.

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The third and last ingredient I would like to add is not technology nor a source of energy, but people.

In times where digitalisation, artifical intelligence, machine learning and robots are "the talk of the town", we should never lose track of the fact that we need the right people and the right competence to manage the energy transition.

There is a limit to what machines and computers can do. That´s why we need creative and innovative people to solve challenges and clear the path towards the low-emission society.

Furthermore - when recruiting we have to make sure that we get the best talents.  Our industry is still – in 2020 – somewhat unbalanced and we certainly need more women. That was also the background for my minister`s decision last week to organize a working lunch for women in the energy industry.  

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Ladies and gentemen, my ten minutes of energy transition is about up.

Resources, technology and people are all key ingredients in our vision for the future  - and our path towards the low emission society of 2050. Achieving this will take time and require hard work from everyone involved – industry, research communities, authorities and private citizens.

A small footnote at the end: It might be a surprising to hear a Norwegian politician speak for ten minutes, without mentioning CCS. Until now. Rest assured – the Norwegian Government will continue to push forward making CCS an important part of the solution. We firmly believe CCS is needed to achieve global climate goals.

The reason why I haven`t talked about it more is simply because a decision on the full-scale project will happen next month - in connection with the state budget.

Dear friends, climate change knows no borders and international cooperation is key. Our common challenge is curbing emissions while ensuring affordable and secure energy for all.

That is a tall order and failiure is not on the menu.

Thank you for your attention.