A country well known for its high mountain plateaus, abundant natural lakes and steep valleys and fjords, Norway’s topography lends itself perfectly to hydropower development. Indeed, hydro provided the basis for the nation’s industrialisation in the late 19th century, and remains the backbone of its power system.
Hydropower regularly accounts for more than 95 per cent of total Norwegian power production, with the small remainder made up by thermal and, only recently, wind. At the end of 2016, Norway’s inland waters powered over 31 GW installed capacity, producing 144 TWh of clean power. It marks the highest annual hydropower generation ever recorded in Norway, which has been attributed in large part to very high rainfall throughout the year.
Despite hosting a mature and established hydropower sector, Norway plans to continue to develop its hydropower resources in the near future. The current average age of hydropower and dam infrastructure in the country is around 46 years; this is triggering refurbishments and upgrades through the country, as well as environmental improvements. The terms of operation in about 430 hydropower licences may be revised before 2022, increasing the standards for environmental impacts.
As a result of climate change, the country is currently experiencing an increase in average inflow feeding its river systems, adding a further incentive for extension projects. Some of these projects can involve including new catchment areas or increasing the size of the reservoirs and turbines to accommodate increased inflow. One such modernisation and extension project is the Nedre Rossaga station, which was completed in 2016. In addition to modernising the existing turbines, a new power station with an additional turbine unit was installed, increasing total installed capacity from 250 MW to 300 MW. This is part of Statkraft’s USD 1.95 billion investment for upgrades of its domestic hydropower assets.
The introduction of renewable energy certificates in 2003, and the merging in 2012 of the Norwegian and Swedish certificate markets, has resulted in a boom of smaller-scale (in this case 10 MW or less) hydropower projects throughout Norway. Investors were able to quickly identify opportunities after the Norwegian Water Resource and Energy Directorate published country-wide mapping for potential sites in 2004. Over 350 small- scale hydropower projects have been commissioned since 2003, and the number is expected to grow up until 2020, when the certificate scheme ends.
Norway commissioned 35 new hydropower stations in 2016, totalling 154 MW. Notable projects include the 27 MW Govddesaga station, which was commissioned in the summer of 2016.
There are also two notable projects currently under construction within the polar circle: Smilberg (33 MW) and Storavatn (36 MW) are scheduled for commissioning in 2019.
The Norwegian power system benefits from an integrated, open electricity market (Nord Pool) shared with the neighbouring countries Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. The Nordic system is also interconnected with a number of other countries via high-voltage direct current (DC) transmission lines. DC connections exist from Sweden to Germany and Poland, as well as a recently completed interconnector to Lithuania. Norway also has a DC line to the Netherlands and Russia, while Finland is connected to Estonia and Russia. The Norwegian TSO Statnett has been granted licence to build interconnectors to Germany and the UK, each of 1,400 MW to be commissioned in 2018 (Germany) and 2020 (UK).
This extent of interconnectors provides ample export opportunities for Norwegian hydropower. In 2016, taking advantage of record-breaking hydropower production, Norway’s net power exports reached 16.5 TWh, roughly 10 per cent of total domestic production. In addition, Norway and the UK recently announced plans to build the world’s longest submarine high-voltage cable for the export of Norwegian hydropower to the United Kingdom, and there are plans to export Norwegian hydropower to Germany as well.
This country profile is featured in the 2017 Hydropower Status Report. You can download the full report here.
This profile was last updated in May 2017.