Out of the blue and into the green
Norway has some of the best wind resources in Europe and an oil and gas industry with a history spanning almost 50 years. We have the technology required for developing offshore wind farms. So why are we hesitating?
Offshore wind energy. This magic formula is mentioned when we talk about our future energy requirements. It is a good alternative to onshore wind farms located in unspoilt countryside. It is the solution to how the offshore industry can be used once the petroleum age is over. It is a huge, perpetual, renewable resource which is just waiting for us.
So why are developments progressing so slowly?
“Investing in offshore wind turbines is very capital-intensive. Under today’s conditions there are only a few companies that have the necessary resources”, says Professor Berte-Elen Konow at Faculty of Law, University of Bergen.
During the course of her academic career, she has conducted research on financial law and international liens in particular. She has now chosen a greener direction for her academic work, and is a pioneering researcher in the field of sustainable finance. She is the Faculty’s representative on UiB’s Climate and Energy Transformation Committee, and affiliated with the Bergen Offshore Wind Centre (BOW).
Professor Konow has embarked on the first stage of a major research project, designed to investigate if Norway’s regulations on liens and asset registration are modern enough and provide adequate leeway for companies undergoing a readjustment phase. She and her colleagues at the UiB and the NHH (the Norwegian School of Economics) will be addressing the issues involved, find new solutions, and make recommendations about sustainable finance for offshore wind turbines.
“If we are to attain our sustainable goals, we will need to make a substantial economical effort. The private and public sectors alone would not be able to fund the required adjustments,” says Professor Konow, adding:
“We have to make sure private companies in the forefront of the "green" and sustainable development meet equal financial framework and conditions as the existing industry”.
Professor Konow believes that more companies will need to become involved if we wish to facilitate a major development of this type.
“The question is whether or not we should wait for the major players to take everything, or if we should ensure that several companies will be able to contribute towards developing offshore wind parks. I want to find out if the legal financial framework conditions are good enough for anyone wanting to invest.
An equally important task is to explore the possibilities for legal changes, and to contribute to a process that may ensure that our legal framework also is in correspondence with current international law.
The UN has mooted the need for sustainable finance. The EU, which is a party to the Paris Agreement, has also undertaken to help EU countries lead the way in respect of sustainable finance.
The Norwegian maritime industry already possesses much of the infrastructure, technology and expertise that would be required for such restructuring. The international offshore wind market is currently undergoing rapid development. Wind Europe states that last year alone 18 new offshore wind farms were built in Europe.
The value of Professor Konow’s recommendations could be transferred to other forms of sustainable finance. The Legal Department at the Norwegian Ministry of Justice is following her research with interest. As a far-reaching consequence, her recommendations could result in a legislative amendment which could expedite the development of wind power in the North Sea.
“I’m impatient to get going. We don’t have any time to lose.”