Ambassador Gjelstad on Wind Offshore in Greece: New opportunities, challenges and prospects.

Offshore Wind
Ambassador Jørn Gjelstad

Ambassador Jørn E. Gjelstad's opening remarks at the workshop on Wind Offshore in Greece in cooperation with the Hellenic Wind Energy Association. The workshop took place 12th of April at Hilton Athens.

Mr. Secretary General Verriopoulos,
Esteemed guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am both honored and privileged to welcome you to today to the workshop on floating offshore windfarms. I am really looking forward to fresh perspectives on this issue. On challenges and prospects of this emerging industry, and on how this industry can be included and implemented within a renewed energy-mix . It is with great expectations I take part, because the relevant subjects for discussion this morning are all inextricably linked to the most important issue of our time: How to preserve the welfare of the earth and to prevent it from a systemic deterioration. 

We all know that emissions of climate gases may lead to an increase in the earth´s mean surface temperature. This may lead to changed precipitation patterns and wind systems, dislocation of climatic zones and a significant increase of the sea level. Such changes may entail major consequences both for natural ecosystems and for entire societies.

According to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global emissions of greenhouse gases must be reduced by 40-50% the next 12 years to reach the 1.5 degrees target. This will require rapid and far-reaching transformation of energy systems, industry, urban development as well as agriculture and forestry. Ambitious national  policies are required to speed up this urgent transformation. And these policies have to be effectively coordinated. We must find new energy sources. We must use our energy sources smarter and more efficient. And we have to ensure that we get the most energy with the least emission of greenhouse gases at an affordable cost.

Greece has really stepped forward with its new National Energy Strategy, which sets ambitious targets for the future. According to the plan, Greece will reduce its gas emissions with 63% by 2030 compared to the 2010-level, increase the relative share of renewable energy sources in the energy-mix by 55%, and increase the energy consumption from renewables with 32% also by 2030. Within this paradigm, both wind- and solar-power will play a strategic role.

This example demonstrates fully that the key components in any transition to a greener future are the sources of energy generously offered by the nature itself. Renewables are indeed the energy future of the planet, and investments in low or no carbon infrastructure and solutions should be significantly stepped up. On this background, I am happy to inform you that last week, the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund, also known as the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global, was given the go-ahead by our Minister of Finance to invest in renewable energy projects that are not listed on the stock market. Unlisted projects make up for more than two-thirds of the entire market of renewable infrastructure, estimated to trillions of dollars.

We hope that priorities made by the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund will be duly noted, and inspire others to make powerful investment in green projects. By doing so, we will improve advanced green technologies, bring down their costs, and accelerate the global transformation of energy consumption from dirt to clean.

At this point, please allow me to make three observations of the connection between industry, economy and climate:

First, the technological, economic and environmental impacts of human behavior and activities are accelerating and feeding-off one another. Technological innovation is driving more globalization, and more globalization is driving climate change. But this dynamic goes also the other way around: accelerated scientific and technological progress is at the same time the major driver of all new solutions to climate change and environmental hazards.

On this background, it is encouraging to see how the Fourth Industrial Revolution or the ITC revolution of 2006/2007 triggered an explosion in computing, processing and storage power, that gave rise an exponential increase in clean power energy solutions. Solar and wind, LED lightening, energy efficient buildings and electrified vehicles have now become core elements of the new energy paradigm. These technological synergies have worked, and we have managed to absorb and adapt to a rate of change that is historical unprecedented. Cutting edge technological has the power to reshape a deteriorating biophysical landscape, and translate threats into viable solutions for our complexed ecosystems. We should not forget about this!

Second,  we can still hear arguments claiming that any transformation of our energy systems to a low- or no-carbon economy will be an impediment to economic growth and prosperity. On this issue, the Norwegian report “The New Climate Economy” (2014), shows clearly that there is no contradiction between climate action and economic growth. The report rather shows that technological innovation and investment in efficient low-emission solutions will create new opportunities, more jobs, increased corporate earnings and a sustained and well-balanced economic development.

The alleged incongruity between climate-friendly measures and economic growth is false, and must be refuted. The green economy has not only become profitable; this segment of the global economy is the one with the strongest growth rate and the brightest future. The new climate economy is about to become the major driver of the modern global economy. And not to be part of this can easily lock one into economic and technological stagnation.

Third, it is therefore encouraging to observe that global corporations such as Google is currently making direct investments in wind farms of more than USD 1 billion.  Apple has announced that it powers its data centers with clean energy and has committed itself to 100% clean energy supply to all its facilities. And IKEA is aiming at 100% renewable energy coverage by 2020, and is starting to sell flat-pack-solar-panel-kits alongside its couches and tables.

The “necessity to transform” is also the core message in the recent OECD report "Investing in Climate, Investing in Growth", where OECD describes how countries can achieve strong and inclusive economic growth based on low gas-emissions.

Floating offshore wind technology is one such fascinating option to multiply the opportunities by a well-orchestrated transformation. This technology is still more costly than onshore wind, but costs are expected to come down rapidly  through upcoming projects and technological improvements. The cost-side is expected to follow the cost development, not to say cost-efficiency, we have seen in solar power, wind on land and battery technology -  all of which now have become competitive against fossil energy in most places around the world.

Additionally, offshore wind has a relatively low local environmental impact and is less controversial than onshore wind. Good planning processes and sufficient mitigation measures will take care of any such concerns.

In the same way as we have seen in bottom-fixed wind constructions, floating wind technology will create new local jobs. There are a number of technology- related requirements, including maintenance and logistic support, that will connect this renewable energy system to the local society. In this regard, I would be interested to hear more about the potential local spin-off such an activity could create, in terms of job creation and contribution to the local economy.

Norway and Greece are both coastal states with good wind conditions, deep waters and strong maritime traditions. The ocean has connected us, it has made our lives better, and has the potential to make our future even better. The oceans hold the key to solving many of the challenges we are facing today. Clean energy from floating parks could be one of them, transforming countries into leading energy players. Hywind is a great example of what we can achieve by combining existing offshore expertise with new and available technologies and innovative minds. Located east of Scotland, Hywind is designed, developed and implemented by Equinor, and  is the world’s first fully operational floating wind farm today. The  total wind-based energy-output of 5 floating turbines of this plant can provide a full energy supply to 20 000 Scottish household for an entire year.  I’m looking forward to hear the Leading Business Developer of Equinor, Arne Eik, share his experiences and prospects for the future later today.

 

Dear friends and colleagues,

I cannot leave you without making a brief comment of our EEA Grants. This year, we can celebrate the 25th anniversary of the EEA grants to Greece. The EEA Grants are key components of our bilateral relationship with Greece. They have triggered cooperation within many areas, and fostered strong relationships. A large number of exchanges and visits have taken place, friendships have been created, technologies have been transferred, shared challenges have been addressed and joint solutions found. The Grants have brought our two countries closer. We are happy that the new EEA program will involve grants to private companies in Greece in the areas of Blue Growth, Green Energy and ICT.

I am also happy to inform you that  Anne Lise Rognlidalen from Innovation Norway, the Norwegian State's most important instrument for innovation and development, is with us today and will present the “Business Innovation Greece” program at the end of our workshop.

I am very excited to see the great interest and large attendance for this workshop. Our plan is to create a platform and an opportunity for Norwegian and Greek professional to come together and delve into the prospects for floating offshore wind energy as a new strategic asset to the energy-mix. I believe that Greece and Norway should take the opportunity to build on our common history at sea, our traditions and our vast maritime knowledge also to create a common future built on clean and affordable energy.

Research, development and technological advances need a big boost from governments. And both Greece and Norway have by their respective national strategies on energy and environment set ambitious targets for both emission reduction, renewables expansion and energy efficiency. This is a fact that we must build on in order to expand our excellent bilateral relationship even further.

To learn more about the Greek perspective and vision for the future, I am very happy to now give the floor to my friend, Secretary General of the Ministry of Environment and Energy, Machalis Verriopoulos.

Thank you for your attention.