From political ambitions to zero emissions: PM Solberg speech

Speech by Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the opening ceremony of Siemens' new battery factory in Trondheim, 28 January 2019.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me to Trondheim. The opening of Siemens’ new battery factory is an occasion for celebration. Not only because it incorporates state-of-the-art technology. But also because it is a part of the green shift.

It points towards a future of increased electrification within the transport sector and other parts of the economy.

For most countries, the first phase of the green shift is the transition from coal to renewables. Thanks to our waterfalls, Norway has already entered the next phase: How can we use our clean energy to electrify other sectors?

We need to replace the fossil fuels used in other sectors with clean electricity to mitigate global warming. We need better batteries for ships and trucks so they can travel longer distances.

Electrification and energy storage play an essential role in a low-emissions future.

These developments represent continuity in our history. When Norwegian waterfalls were tamed a century ago, the purpose was to provide electricity for energy-intensive industries. This cheap and readily available source of power was a key to our industrialisation.

Shipping and fisheries have been a backbone of our economy for even longer, and will continue to be in the future.

Our abundance of natural resources is, however, not the only reason why Norway developed from being a poor country on the outskirts of Europe to become a prosperous welfare society. There are many examples of countries rich in natural resources that have not been able to transform their resources into jobs and welfare for their populations. Our most valuable resource, therefore, is human knowledge and expertise. Brainpower is as important as hydropower.

The way we use our natural resources is crucial. We have used them well in the past, and must continue to do so in the future. Wise political decisions, well-functioning institutions, a universal education system and the Norwegian model of cooperation rather than confrontation are key elements.

We must build on this model as we develop and implement technology for the future, and fulfil our climate commitments.

Norway's commitment under the Paris Agreement is to reduce our emissions by at least 40 % by 2030, and we are aiming to do so in cooperation with the EU.

We now know that higher goals must be set, and Norway will do our part.

Norway has adopted even higher ambitions for the transport sector. We want to halve the emissions from transport by 2030, which is only 11 years from now.

Norway has a strong and effective policy for electric vehicles, as many of you know. Last year, 31 % (46 092) of all passenger cars that were sold were zero emission vehicles.  Actually, there were several months in which more zero emission vehicles were sold than the combined sales of petrol and diesel vehicles.

We are on track to meet our target of all new car sales being zero emission vehicles by 2025.

These developments have been made possible by the combination of a high carbon price, strong incentives and attractive and affordable cars. We have had a carbon tax since 1991 and incentives for electric vehicles since the early 1990s. Change can happen fast, but policies adopted to encourage climate-friendly behaviour should continue to work over time.

As a Conservative politician, I am not very fond of business regulations. I am primarily a supporter of market solutions. But when it comes to environmental politics, the market needs some help. Otherwise, the most environmentally friendly solutions will be too expensive at first. The maritime sector is a good example.

Siemens delivered the battery technology for the world's first electric ferry, Ampere. Ampere was initially a research and development project that required close dialogue between the private and public sectors. Actors in the private sector included the shipowners, battery system providers, shipbuilders, ship design companies, and others.

In 2015, the Storting decided that all new ferries serving municipal or regional ferry connections should be low or zero emission vessels. Today, as a rule, all new public tenders for car ferries require zero or low emission technology.

This has triggered considerable creativity and technological development.

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 roll out the necessary infrastructure. It is estimated that two-thirds of our car ferries will be electric by 2030.

As we scale up the market, costs are also coming down. The market is maturing and operational costs are tapering off. Electric ferries will be cost competitive with conventional diesel ferries in many instances.

And, unlike the electric car market, the maritime sector is an integrated part of our economy. Norway has a substantial maritime industry. Ferries are only the beginning. There is potential for electrification of the fisheries fleet, boats used in aquaculture, and parts of the offshore sector.

The International Maritime Organization has set the goal of halving emissions from international shipping by 2050. This will increase the demand for low and zero emission solutions in the maritime sector.

DNV GL estimates that a third of all ships in the global fleet will have batteries installed before 2050.

This means enormous business opportunities.

As other countries increase their climate ambitions, the frontrunners in green technology will have an advantage. Norwegian actors are well placed to export technology and solutions. This, in turn, will create value and new jobs in the maritime sector.

Shipping is one of the areas where Norwegian solutions can make a global difference. Siemens chose to build their new factory in Norway because of our shipbuilding expertise and proximity to the world's largest market for maritime batteries.

The battery factory here in Trondheim combines many of the key elements for success:

  • clean energy in the form of hydropower;
  • advanced technological expertise; and
  • good interaction between politicians and the business sector.

This is an example of what can be accomplished within the Norwegian model – drawing on the strengths of a mixed market economy, tripartite cooperation and a comprehensive welfare state. And a Government that supports green growth and market solutions.

I am delighted that Siemens have chosen Trondheim for their new battery factory. I’m sure you won’t regret it.

I wish you every success in this exciting venture.

Thank you.