Norway-My Observations


Preface My account is primarily based upon numerous conversations I had with my cousin Anders Heltzen and his wife Gro. I very much appreciate their knowledge and willingness to spend their time discussing issues relating to energy and sustainability in Norway. I also want to emphasize that I have made an effort to remain as unbiased as possible in light of my Norwegian heritage.

FACTUAL INFORMATION

Factual Information Norway spans approximately 150,000 square miles. 65% is mountainous and less than 5% of the land is cultivated. Although it is Europe’s sixth largest country in terms of its landmass, the population is only five million. The country has the second longest coastline in the world, after Canada.

The government is a Constitutional Monarchy, although the King has no political power similar to other western European monarchies. Eight political parties are represented in parliament with Labor and Conservative being the largest. Their constitution was formed in 1814, and is the third oldest democratic constitution, after the U.S. and France.

For centuries, the main industry sectors have been shipping (one of the largest fleets in the world), mining, forest and fishing exports, and more recently oil and natural gas.

Norway has a very high standard of living with no real poverty. It is a welfare state that provides for the basic needs of all with a strong commitment to equality and fairness. The Norwegian labor force is highly educated and technology driven. There is no cost to public education including universities. There is also no cost for health care which is universal and highly regarded. The average life expectancy is 77 for men and 82 for women. A deep respect for nature is part of the Norwegians’ character. The people delight in the great outdoors year round.

ALTERNATIVE CLEAN ENERGY SOURCES

100% of energy is provided by hydroelectricity. Natural Gas is also abundant, and is entirely exported to other European countries such as the U.K., the Netherlands and Germany. The mode of transport is primarily via pipelines that run under the sea. To a lesser extent, LNG is frozen, concentrated and transported via ships. However, this is more expensive.

Windmills are not as cost efficient as hydroelectricity. Wildlife preservationists are opposed due to bird fatalities. Plus, transport of the energy produced from the coast to inland is at great expense.

Solar energy is only subsidized in certain areas. In Oslo, there is much support for this form of energy. The long daylight hours over almost half the year produce a substantial storage capacity for the short winter days. New and improved technology is continually explored. Approximately 2,500 lighthouses from south to north are supplied by solar energy. Most Norwegians have summer cabins. About 100,000 of these have solar energy. Norway has the highest increase in the use of solar energy in Europe since 2014, and the market continues to grow.

The utilization of waves in the sea is also being explored as a viable energy source.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

All new buildings must be energy efficient by law. This includes windows, walls, doors, etc. Balanced energy with re-use of heat in homes is saving up to 70% using modern technology. This includes “Poikilothermic” energy which transfers cold air from outside via pipes and transforms it to warm air which heats the rooms. On a personal note, ever since I began visiting Norway in the 1970s, I have a genuine appreciation for their heated floors in the bathrooms!

Toilets use vacuum technology similar to toilets on airlines. Approximately one liter of water is used to flush. The air pressure is applied using electricity. This is a new trend and is increasing in the world market.

As in the U.K., most appliances are unplugged when not in use. This is done not only to save energy, but to promote fire safety.

NORWEGIAN OIL

Oil was discovered off the Norwegian coast in both the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea in the late 1960s. Currently, only Russia and Saudi Arabia export more oil than Norway. The way in which the country has used the income from this industry is unique in benefiting all Norwegians.

Revenue was first used to bolster declining industries and improve the transportation, education and health systems. As a result, everyone’s life improved, and their standard of living grew markedly. Since then, Norway has been saving in a Government Petroleum Fund, currently valued at tens of billions of dollars. It is one of the largest international investment funds in the world.

The Fund is distributed 38% in Europe, 40% in North America, 18% in Asia and the Pacific, and the remainder in the rest of the world. The investments are in 60% shares, 35% in interest and 5% in real estate. It is important to note that no investments are made with countries that violate children’s rights, environmental issues and water management practices. The Fund is managed with transparency and holds non-corruption paramount. The government can only take profits of no more than 4% per year. The aim is to ensure that the Fund will continue to grow, thus will sustain future generations.

Offshore oil drilling is performed with the highest of safety standards. Ships are always placed near the rigs to ensure safety. Norway is a leader in engineering technology to improve safety, efficiency and environmental standards. There is virtually no onshore oil drilling.

SUMMARY

One could postulate that much of Norway’s wealth, high standard of living, access to free education and healthcare is due to the relatively small, homogeneous population. However, I believe that much of it is a result of excellent management of resources, strong emphasis on education, health and equal distribution of wealth. As a result, they get what they pay for in terms of their high tax burden (~ 50% of income). They have very little crime, most people live long, healthy lives, their infrastructure is exemplary and their quality of life in general is very high. The government, regardless of which political party, is genuinely dedicated to ensure the well-being of its citizens as well as future generations. Special interests are not part of the equation. We can all learn from their superb example.

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