New study: Svalbard’s future energy system

9. August 2018 | News

Currently, Svalbard’s energy system is based on local coal, but its power plant is old and the prospects for mining are uncertain. How will the community meet its future energy needs? Together with Multiconsult, we have analysed the alternatives.

Our study is a comprehensive analysis of Longyearbyen’s entire energy system that considers the need for secure energy supplies in every hour of the year. The alternatives considered are compared on a common basis that accounts for energy demand, security of supply, and fuel and CO2 prices.

The analysis looks at a broad spectrum of alternatives for Longyearbyen, the largest community in Svalbard. Each option is compared with the continuation of coal-based heat and power production either with or without carbon capture and storage (CCS). The other alternatives considered are:

  • Heat and power generation based on bio-coal, bio-pellets or LNG,
  • Solar and wind power combined with batteries, hydrogen or LNG, or
  • A power cable from the Norwegian mainland.

We analysed 10 alternatives altogether and conclude that the most promising options involve either the construction of a new Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant fuelled by pellets or LNG, or else a combination of solar panels and LNG-based CHP. These alternatives are relatively low-cost, do not yield additional harm to the local environment and support security of supply.
Some of the insights from the project are as follows.

  • While solar panels can be mounted on existing buildings and a new CHP plant could be placed in already developed areas, wind power would require the development of new areas.
  • Interestingly, pellets-based CHP actually provides the lowest CO2 emissions of the options considered. Systems based on solar panels and wind turbines end up producing comparatively high CO2 emissions because reserve capacity using diesel needs to be called on periodically even where energy storage, in the form of batteries or fuel cells, is incorporated into the system.
  • An interconnector to the mainland proves to be very expensive and may bring its own adverse environmental effects.
  • Of the other options considered, CCS, bio-coal and hydrogen are all relatively costly. CCS costs are very uncertain and bio-coal suffers from security of supply concerns, since there is only one supplier.
  • The alternatives that combine LNG and CCS; solar, wind and batteries; or wind power with LNG are all deemed to fall in the middle ground, being worse than our recommended alternatives but far from the worst options.

Like many places, energy supply is critical to Longyearbyen’s residents and businesses. However, Svalbard also represents something of a special case. The community is situated very far north, far from the Norwegian mainland. In the winter, there is no sun for 4-5 months. The area has permafrost and requires heating year-round. At the same time, the local natural environment is extremely vulnerable and local resources are limited.

The alternative energy supply systems we’ve analysed as part of this work were not developed in detail, and there is uncertainty pertaining to several of the assumptions used as part of the analysis, for example covering elements of the costs and in relation to the environmental effects. However, the work does provide a starting point for further targeted analysis to help address important gaps in our knowledge.

The welfare economic elements incorporated in the analysis of alternatives include the options’ implied capital and operation costs, CO2 emissions, security of supply effects, and local environmental effects. We have not assessed energy supply as a business or technology development activity per se and alternatives based on very immature technologies have therefore not been included in the analysis.

The study was carried out in cooperation with Multiconsult for the Norwegian ministry of oil and energy.

Download the report here (in Norwegian):

THEMA Rapport 2018-9 >> Alternativer for framtidig energiforsyning på Svalbard

portrettbilde, forfatter

Berit Tennbakk
Partner, PhD
berit.tennbakk@thema.no
+47 928 68 117