green energy under the ice – Energy Magazine







The Greenland island is absolutely unique, from an energy point of view too. For example, 100% of its population has access to electricity and more than 80% of its energy comes from renewable sources, while the island has huge oil and gas reserves.

From the Institute for the Development of Fuel and Energy Technologies (IRTTEK) describes how Greenland’s energy sector works for Energy Magazine.

By Mikhail Smyshlyaev

Moscow, Russia.- The characteristics of the island of Greenland are unique. It is the largest island on Earth, but with the lowest population density, with 0.03 people per square kilometer. More than 80% of the territory is covered with ice, which contains about 7% of the world’s fresh water. Let’s hope that this “ice cap” on the planet never melts, otherwise the sea level would rise 7 meters, which would cause a global catastrophe.

However, little by little this ice sheet is shrinking, increasing, at least for now, the economic attractiveness of the island. The fact is that Greenland contains about 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30% of its gas reserves, according to the US Geological Survey. Greenland is an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark, but its riches caught the attention of former US President Donald Trump, who even offered to buy the arctic island. However, the offer was rejected by the Government of Greenland and by the Danish Government.

It should be remembered that Denmark determines foreign, defense and security policy and supports Greenland with an annual subsidy, which represents approximately two-thirds of the Arctic island’s economy.

Although Greenland can only be reached by plane via Canada, Denmark and also distant Iceland, no less than 56,000 people live on the island, who also speak Greenlandic. It’s a harsh place, as even in summer temperatures rarely go above freezing.

In 2015, Greenland’s share of renewable energy in the energy system was 81.29%. This share has been growing steadily. In 2012, for example, it was 75%. How do Greenlanders get by living in an ice-covered area the size of Western Europe?

First, local authorities are expanding the network of small wind farms to supply power to more remote areas.

Palle Christiansen, Greenland’s finance minister, said a few years ago that oil products are constantly being reduced and the money released is being invested in green energy. The Greenlandic authorities do not like to rely on diesel generators. Not long ago, the second largest city, Sisimut, with its 6,000 inhabitants, was supplied by two diesel generators. Which, according to Cristiansen himself, are the largest sources of CO2 emissions on the island. Instead, the city will be supplied by hydroelectric plants.

Waste-free production

As we have already mentioned, the electrical system on the island is local. Each locality tries to take advantage of its geographical position to generate energy. The Ilulissat area is centered around hydroelectric power plants and Sisimut even uses fish and other waste products.

Greenland has five hydroelectric plants and also uses energy from waste incineration, these plants are managed by municipalities. But the local focus makes it difficult to use surplus power elsewhere.

The city of Sisimiut feeds on waste in the strictest sense. This includes household waste and even cardboard boxes that transport food from outside of Greenland. Waste from the construction industry also goes into the “oven”, as does fish waste and fish oil.

Instead, the town of Saarlock relies on solar and wind power, and not much is generated, but the people of Saarlock have enough.

Another local town, Ilulissat, uses an autonomous hydroelectric power station powered by meltwater from glaciers. The 22.5 MW plant has replaced a diesel power plant and supplies power to the entire city.

Break ties with oil

In the summer of 2021, Greenland said “no” to further oil exploration and announced that it would stop issuing exploration licences. Oil exploration in Greenland has been carried out since the 1970s, with the participation of large oil companies such as Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Eni.

However, there is oil in Greenland, even under the seabed off the east coast. However, according to the government, it is too expensive to extract, as well as being dangerous for the environment. The Minister of Housing, Infrastructure, Mineral Resources and Gender Equality, Naaja H. Nathanielsen stated that “our country would be better off if it focused on sustainable development”. The authorities consider it a natural step and take the climate crisis seriously.

However, it is global warming that can interfere with this issue. If it makes mining more economically affordable, there is no guarantee that the Greenland authorities’ decision will not be overturned.

Mikhail Smyshlyaev is a member of the IRTTEK Institute

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