As a power producer and network operator, Hafslund E-CO’s environmental impact is mainly within three areas: climate change, electrification and the external environment. Thanks to our renewable energy production, the Group makes an important contribution to attaining environmental goals by counteracting unwanted climate change and promoting the electrification of society. While our activities affect the external environment both aesthetically and as a result of changes in water flow and water temperature in regulated rivers and watercourses, the Group aims to conduct its environmental interventions as low-impact as possible.
The world is currently facing much greater environmental Challenges than ever before. Average temperatures are rising and the world is experiencing more extreme weather events than previously. Recent climate changes are largely manmade, partly due to emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal number 13 states that it is necessary to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”. One of the proposed measures is to invest far more in renewable energy.
Producing and delivering renewable energy is the Group’s most important contribution to combat climate change.
If the Group’s emission-free hydropower production of 14.3 TWh in 2018 were to be replaced by gas power, this would correspond to an emissions increase of 5.2 million tonnes of CO2 – the same as almost two million cars emit in a year.
One of the benefits of hydropower is that only negligible levels of greenhouse gases are emitted after a power plant has been built. Life cycle analyses (LCA) show the total emissions in a product’s lifecycle from the extraction of raw materials to production, distribution, use, reuse, maintenance and recycling – to final disposal, including all transportation involved. Life cycle analyses of various power production techniques show that hydropower has very low emissions. The research institute Østfoldforskning has calculated emissions from a number of Norwegian hydropower plants through life cycle analyses and the calculations show that the emissions from a typical Norwegian hydropower plant are 2.39 g CO2 equivalents per kWh. For Hafslund E-CO’s total production of 14.3 TWh, the institute’s analysis indicates emissions from the entire life cycle corresponding to about 34,000 tonnes of CO2 or roughly the same as 14,000 cars emit within a year. The net environmental gain from electrifying the energy supply is thus substantial.
The Group’s CO2 emissions related to day-to-day operations are largely related to unplanned emissions of sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), a harmful greenhouse gas used as an insulation and cut-off medium in switching stations. In 2018, Network’s facilities contained 26,827 kilograms of SF6, and emissions totalled 40 kilograms, compared to 39 kilograms in 2017. Emissions from Production were 5.4 kilograms, against 8 kilograms the year before. Total emissions of SF6 thus constituted 45.4 kilograms in 2018. Converted into emissions from cars, this equals approximately 400 cars per year. Reducing emissions of SF6 is a priority area in the Group and we are currently working on a project that is examining alternatives to this potent greenhouse gas.
In addition to minimising emissions from day-to-day operations, the Group aims to limit greenhouse gas emissions from administration and transport. The Group is therefore actively using emission-free vehicles in operations where possible, and makes extensive use of video conferencing to limit business travel. Emissions from flights, helicopter use, electricity consumption and fuel for cars and machines fluctuate from year to year depending on the level of activity.
To further contribute to replacing fossil energy sources by emission free power moving forward, the Group is continuously making improvements and implementing new projects. One hydropower plant (Rosten) was put into operation in 2018. Four power plants are under Construction (Vamma, Nedre Otta, Mork and Tolga). Furthermore, the Group is a co-owner of an interconnector project that is currently in the licensing process (NorthConnect). Increased exchange capacity2 makes it possible to exchange renewable energy across borders, and thereby reduce the use of fossil energy.
Hafslund E-CO contributes to the electrification of the society. The Group plays an important role in the electrification of the transport sector in particular. Hafslund E-CO is facilitating an extensive implementation of electric vehicles in our network area, right from the overhead network and out to the end customer. The Group is in close contact with and assists various operators of public transportation, as well as private customers, housing cooperatives and other providers of charging stations by facilitating services and providing solutions. In addition to supporting the ongoing electrification of transport in the local area, Hafslund E-CO is involved in a pilot programme for the electrification of long-haul road transport.
Hafslund E-CO is also working on the electrification of construction sites and will, according to plan, help make Oslo become one of the first cities in the world to have fully electric construction sites during 2019. The Group is also working on emission-free solutions for renovations of Our own dams and other plants.
The external environment
The energy system of the future will be based solely on renewable, carbon-neutral energy sources. Hafslund E-CO plays an important role as a producer and distributor of renewable energy to our customers, and we work continuously to ensure that our activities are carried out in a way that has as little impact on the environment as possible. The Group shall also keep the environmental impact of internal operations at a low level. The construction, operation and maintenance of hydropower plants does affect the natural environment. The effects are mainly local and related to physical interventions in nature and the impact on biodiversity through changes in water flow and water temperature.
When we construct power plants, review dams and reinvest in the Production business area, Hafslund E-CO actively seeks solutions that keeps the impact of environmental interventions as low as possible, and use knowledge-based techniques that represent best practice. Our facilities shall also be operated in such a way that the Group experiences no environmental nonconformities. The Group’s licences are subject to minimum and maximum regulated water levels, and requirements for minimum water flow in absolute quantities that must be met at all times.
No non-conformities related to the license conditions (water Levels etc.) were reported in 2018, but the Group unfortunately experienced four incidents related to the external environment during the year. The most serious incident concerned sediment transport in the Flåm river relating to the dam modernisation project at the Leinafoss Power plant. The incident is under review to identify the extent of negative effects on the watercourse downstream. Lessons learnt from this review will be utilised in the planning of future modernisation projects.
The Group is implementing landscape and improvement measures where there are defined needs, and the goal is to use such measures to reduce the impact of our operations on the external environment. In line with public orders, trout is stocked in a number of mountain lakes, a measure that creates good fishing lakes for the benefit of locals and visitors alike. The Group also participates in several Research projects to assess whether the measures initiated have the anticipated effect and investigates whether it is possible to improve the fish welfare through other measures, such as by changing the operating schedules at our facilities.
In rivers where there is no requirement for minimum water flow, but where increased water flow may have a positive environmental impact, our Production business area has introduced voluntary minimum water flow requirements. This reduces energy production, but it is a loss the Group is happy to accept if it produces a positive environmental impact. In 2018, the loss in profit from voluntary water release in Aurland and Hallingdal was approximately NOK 3.6 million.
Regulating watercourses also has positive environmental effects beyond the production of clean energy. During flood periods, the Group has, on several occasions, been able to contribute to reducing the amount of water in rivers and watercourses, thereby averting flooding and damage to property and the environment.
For several dam modernisation projects, Production has required pitching stone for the dams. Hafslund E-CO was the first hydropower producer to convert quarries into lakes or extensions of existing lakes. In 2018, we completed our work at Store Vargevatn and the quarry was filled with water throughout the summer. A final inspection was conducted by the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) who were very satisfied with the solution. A new quarry (quarry lake) has been started at Strandevatn.
Networks still has a number of high voltage powerlines that use oil as an insulating medium. If this type of cable is damaged, oil can seep into the ground or watercourses. In 2018, we refilled 2,196 litres of cable oil, against 1,667 litres in 2017. There have been no reports of harm to fish or birds as a result of oil discharges in 2018.
The impact on the external environment of Hafslund E-CO’s other activities largely derives from buildings, transport and externally sourced services, including transport and contracting activities. Hafslund E-CO works continuously to minimise the negative effects of these activities.