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Icelandic Member Committee

The Iceland National Committee aims to promote sustainable energy development in Iceland, as a part of the World Energy Council’s energy vision. As a member of the World Energy Council network, the organisation is committed to representing the Icelandic perspective within national, regional and global energy debates. The committee includes a variety of members to ensure that the diverse energy interests of Iceland are appropriately represented. Members of the committee are invited to attend high-level events, participate in energy-focused study groups, contribute to technical research and be a part of the global energy dialogue.

Born in Reykjavik 1951, Mr Johannesson finished his MSc in Engineering Physics in 1976, his PhD thesis on thermal models for buildings in 1981 and was appointed as an associate professor at Lund University in 1982. He was awarded the title of doctor honoris causae from the University of Debrecen in 2008 and the Swedish Concrete Award in 2011. From 1975 he worked as a research assistant at Lund University, from 1982 as a consultant in research and building physics in Reykjavik and from 1990 as a professor in Building Technology at KTH in Stockholm. His research has mainly concerned the thermodynamical studies of buildings, innovative building systems and energy conservation in the built environment. Since the beginning of 2008 he has been the Director General of the Icelandic National Energy Authority which is responsible for public adminstration of energy research, energy utilisation and regulation. At present he is also an affiliated professor at KTH, the chair of IPGT the international Partnership for Geothermal Technology and the leading person for Geothermal ERANET a European project for coordinating funding geothermal research and knowledge base in European countries.

Energy in Iceland

iceland, critical uncertainties, action priorities

Comparing 2019 and 2020 results, Iceland’s energy leaders see higher uncertainty around issues that were previously perceived as Action Priorities. These include Economic Growth, Climate Framework and Renewable Energies. Issues in the Actions section appear with lower impact but continue to be focused on energy technologies.

Economic Growth is perceived as the most pressing of uncertainties due to slower growth, which declined from 4.8% in 2018 to 0.2% in 2019. Strong appreciation of the krona since 2015 and high real exchange rate have affected the competitiveness of the domestic industry and services. The collapse of the second biggest airline company, WOW, in early 2019 also impacted Iceland’s tourism industry. It is now predicted that the turnaround in 2020 will be slower than previously forecast, with an estimated GDP growth of 1.7%.

Climate Framework moves from the actions to the Critical Uncertainties section, reflecting the country’s high vulnerability to global warming (which has already led to the melting of several glaciers in its territory). The government is currently executing Iceland’s first fully funded action plan aiming at carbon neutrality by 2040. Measures range from an increase in reforestation to a ban on new registration of fossil fuel cars by 2030. Iceland has also agreed to cooperate with the EU and Norway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

Renewable Energies are also seen as more uncertain. Iceland generates 100% of its electricity and heat from renewable sources, around 73% of which comes from hydro. Uncertainty may reflect the ongoing national debate regarding wind, hydro and geothermal projects in the country, often more focused on nature conservation issues and less on national economic and social issues, such as the drafting of a renewables master plan.

Innovative Transport remains an Action Priority and relates to increased impact around the Hydrogen Economy issue. In 2019, Iceland invested in infrastructure for alternative fuels at traditional petrol stations, as well as a network of EV charging stations. Stations in the Reykjavik region will be supplying hydrogen and methane as a fuel. Currently, a number of buses are running on hydrogen in a pilot study. Fishing fleets are also piloting hydrogen as an alternative fuel.

CCS enters the Action Priorities section. The CarbFix2 project initiated in 2006 is demonstrating the feasibility of CCS to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels using the Hellisheidi power plant in Iceland as a testing ground. The pilot has already verified that over 95% of CO2 captured and injected can be turned into rock in the subsurface in less than two years. In 2018, the technology was shown effective in reducing emissions from the power plant by over 40%. The Carbon Recycling International project to produce methanol from carbon dioxide and hydrogen is another example of a successful decarbonisation effort.

Hydro also enters the Action Priorities section with a greater impact, as a preliminary construction permit for a new hydropower plant in the Westfjords region has been approved. However, environmental groups have filed a complaint with the Environmental and Natural Resources Complaints Board, contesting the project on the grounds that it does not conform with environmental protection laws. Currently there are several small hydro projects (up to 10MW) in planning and construction phases. The Master Plan for big hydro, geothermal and wind is also in place, and projects are expected to deliver their impact assessment at the beginning of 2020.

The key area of critical uncertainty for energy leaders in Iceland are exchange rates, followed by IoT/ Blockchain, land use, digitalisation and trade barriers. In the area of action priorities, of Icelandic energy leaders this year have place innovative transport, renewable energies, climate framework, economic growth and electricity storage. Both in the area of uncertainty and impact, the exchange rate and financial market in Iceland is ranked riskier than in Europe and in the Globe, while it finds most similarities with African countries. 

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