Norway to keep rules on hydropower ownership

Norway’s government says it will maintain century-old rules favoring public ownership of hydropower concessions, rejecting European Union (EU) demands to amend them to allow more private investment in the sector.

The EFTA surveillance authority (ESA), which monitors non-EU Norway’s compliance with the European Economic Area treaty, has said Norway’s rules on ownership of hydropower treat public and private owners differently, and so are against the treaty.

Under Norway’s system, hydropower concessions sold to foreign or private investors expire and revert to the state 60 years after the licenses are granted, while public concessions last in perpetuity. The ESA and other critics of the system say it keeps private business out of the sector.

A committee of the Norwegian government suggested changes in 2004. It proposed a 75-year concession period for all license holders, instead of the current system in which public owners enjoy concessions in perpetuity.

However, Oil and Energy Minister Odd Roger Enoksen said April 20 the government has decided to preserve the system whereby privately owned hydropower concessions revert to the state.

“Hydropower resources shall be the property of the entire nation,” Enoksen said. “The government shall secure strong public ownership of our hydropower resources.”

Norway is highly dependent on hydroelectric plants, which account for almost all of domestic power generation and consumption. The state owns about half and municipalities about 40 percent of the Norwegian hydropower industry. Industrial groups Norsk Hydro and Elkem are the main owners of the 10 percent in private hands.

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