A submarine power cable to Svalbard isn’t realistic, says Norway’s government

A new feasibility study echoes the 2017 revised national budget in dismissing the option.

By Arne F. Finne, High North News - January 25, 2018

In announcing a feasibility study for future power supply alternatives to Svalbard, the Norwegian government maintains that a submarine cable option is unlikely and irrelevant.

“Our priority in this phase of the work process is to receive an initial overview over all realistic solutions in order to have a foundation for continuing our assessment,” says Minister of Oil and Energy Terje Søviknes.

Last week, the Norwegian government announced a tender for exploring future power supply to Svalbard, referred to as ‘a broad technical-economic feasibility study’.

“Establishing energy supply for the settlements in Svalbard that provides responsible energy supply security for both the immediate as well as more distant future, is crucial,” Søviknes says.

In the tender announced, the government refers to the revised national budget which states that the government does not consider a submarine cable from the mainland a realistic option.

A preliminary cost estimate from ABB indicating that a submarine cable would require an investment somewhere in the range between 3 and 5 billion Norwegian kroner (€300 million).

The government goes a long way in scrapping this alternative. The 2017 revised national budget reads as follows:

There is no commercial technology available today that can ensure power supply to Svalbard or make sure petroleum installations do not fail should errors occur at the installations or the Svalbard cable respectively.

The government assumes future energy supply to provide a responsible level of supply security for the Svalbard settlements.

An investigation of future energy supply for Svalbard should focus on realistic and feasible alternatives within the time frame for implementation set by the current energy solution. Based on this, the government is of the opinion that an investigation of future energy supply at Svalbard should investigate the opportunities for power and energy production locally on Svalbard, including assess low-emission technologies combined with local backup solutions. 

But Former Deputy Director of Store Norske, the Svalbard coalmining company, Dag Inge Brekke, said to High North News that the government’s excluding the submarine cable option for future energy supply to Svalbard appears both remarkable and intolerable.

“I am not fixated on one alternative; however, a submarine cable would be able to secure high-capacity energy to Svalbard and also ensure stability in this provision,” Brekke argued in the interview with HNN. “The world is going electric whether we want to or not, and Norway has a lot of renewable energy. Local solutions may work well, however, there is the risk of their being constructed too limited and adjusted o the population development desired. A high level of R&D also has a tendency to increase risk.”

This article was translated from the original Norwegian by Elisabeth Bergquist.