Renewable energy, including bioenergy, is thriving in the town Akureyri, in northern Iceland, with the community actively moving in the direction of carbon neutrality. The energy transition team at Orkustofnun visited Akureyri in order to look into the current status of renewable energy in transport and in utilization of biomass in the Eyjafjörður Area, northern Iceland. Orkustofnun’s branch in Akureyri was visited, and Guðmundur H. Sigurðarson, Managing Director of Vistorka, presented the company’s activities and the status of these issues including achieving carbon neutral society in Akureyri.
Several charging stations for electric cars are available for use in Akureyri and some of them where visited. The stations are owned and operated by ON, Norðurorka and Rarik. Vistorka received funding from the Energy Fund for development of infrastructure for electric cars which will result in 11 electric charging stations in the North of Iceland. Most of the projects described below have been funded by the Energy Fund as well as supported by Orkusetur.
The compost company Molta was visited, where organic waste is collected from homes and companies in the Eyjafjörður Area and beyond for compost production. Production of biodiesel from animal waste is planned at the facility. The company Orkey was also visited, where biodiesel is produced from waste cooking oil. The biodiesel is used in buses in Akureyri, on fishing vessels and in asphalt production. The aim is to increase production by adding animal waste as mentioned previously. Methane is currently produced from the old landfill in Akureyri and “harnessing” of the manure in the Eyjafjörður area is on the drawing board to further increase methane production to fuel 2-3000 cars per year.
The use of electric bikes by the employees of Norðurorka is also of interest, as electric bikes are relatively inexpensive, convenient in a hilly and windy environment and use a renewable power source. In winter the bikes’ studded tyres are well suited for icy conditions as well as the on-board lighting system is important for safety in the darkness of the Arctic winter. The energy transition team at Orkustofnun has many irons in the fire these days and are gathering ideas that help accomplish Althingi’s action plan regarding energy transition. In order to meet such goals, it is clear that applying well-known and successful methods and technologies are important. Orkustofnun, Orkusjóður and Orkusetur will continue to support projects in the field of energy transition throughout the country.
Taxi drivers and operators of other public service vehicles are set to benefit from a new €7,000 grant scheme aimed at encouraging them to opt for electric vehicles. Minister for Transport, Shane Ross, has announced a new incentive scheme offering a €7,000 grant towards the purchase of an electric vehicle for those with a small public service vehicle (SPSV) licence. That grant is on top of the existing electric car incentives – the €5,000 rebate on vehicle registration tax, a €3,800 grant from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), and the upcoming new grant from the SEAI for installing a home-charging point.
The Department of Transport grant applies to any fully electric vehicle up to six years old, although the amount reduces according to the age of the car. A smaller €3,500 grant applies if you want to buy a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) for taxi use, but only those with Co2 emissions lower than 65g/km. Conventional hybrids are excluded.
The move is the latest in a series of measures being introduced by the Government to promote electric car ownership. Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe introduced a one-year exemption on benefit in kind for electric vehicles in the budget, and it is expected that the exemption will be rolled out for at least three years, including a suspension of any benefit in kind levied on charging your electric car at work.
Meanwhile, Minister for the Environment Denis Naughten has stated that he is looking at other ways to encourage an increase in the move to electric vehicles, including making motorways tolls free for electric cars and banning sales of any non-hybrid or electric car from 2030 onwards. However, the current financial incentives are still not having much effect. Electric cars accounted for a paltry 0.25 per cent of the market last year, with just 622 sold in total in a total new car market of 131,335.
Irelands Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe announced that a total budget of €17 million will go towards the RHI scheme and the encouragement of greater uptake of electric vehicles as part of Ireland’s commitment to its climate change obligations.
€7 million will be allocated for the government’s long-anticipated Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme in 2018. The allocation is lower than predicted by industry representatives, but with applications only expected to open in the second half of 2018, next year will not be a full operational year for the scheme. The scheme is aimed at encouraging industrial and commercial heat users, in the Republic of Ireland, to switch to greener technologies. An RHI scheme was first considered as part of the Bioenergy strategy consultation in 2013, and included in the Draft Bioenergy Plan in 2014.
The RHI will support the replacement of fossil fuel heating systems with renewable energy systems – such as biomass boilers. The scheme will present a significant opportunity for the domestic bioenergy sector benefiting farmers, foresters and rural communities.
“It is without a doubt reasonable to convert the vehicle fleet in Iceland” is the opening sentence in Visir news media from Bjarni Már Júlíusson CEO of ON Power.
The Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Björt Ólafsdóttir recently reported that they expect to see the entire vehicle fleet converted to renewable energy by the year 2030. To be able to achieve those goals the government would have to encourage further construction of electrical power stations.
Bjarni also stated an important issue in this debate is that nearly 100% energy is derived from domestically produced renewable energy and 70-80% of the population live in specific areas.
Bjarni talks about the “devils circle”. Individuals who do not change to electrical cars because there are too few power stations in the countryside and the power stations are not in the countryside because of lack of demand. Bjarni stated that this situation needs to change.
He stated that the government needs to walk the talk when it comes to this and reassure increased capital to the energy fund. The governments needs to balance the ratio between tax collections from gas and diesel against construction of power stations. In 2016 they collected around 1,9 billion ISK meanwhile energy fund spent around 200 million ISK in constructions of powerstations. “They should spent a ceartain percentage of these tax collections on the conversion process” reports Bjarni.
Özur Lárusson, CEO of the automotive trade association has another view on the time of the full conversion. Too many cars have too much lifespan left and individuals not ready to throw their fossil fuel cars for an electrical one if the former still is running. He reports that too many challenges are to be solved until we are fully ready for the conversion.
The Visir Daily News article concludes on the matters that both Özur and Bjarni agree upon. They see the development towards electrical cars is fast and see great possibilities in starting conversion of the public bus and coach transport. Stræto Ltd. for example has already ordered five buses and even though they do not have as good a range on the power supply as fossil fuel equivalents, this is a certain development in the right direction. “We just need to put more power into the process” says Bjarni.
The Icelandic government will soon advertise special subsidies for business that want to install fast charging stations for electric cars. The state intends to put 67 million Icelandic krona per year, over the next three years, to increase the number of charging stations in Iceland.
It is not yet clear whether the first grants will go to setting up charging stations on Route 1 or Ring Road, the national road in Iceland, or to enhance electric car infrastructure for certain communities.
This is done to accelerate the energy exchange which is the government policy and reduce the use of fossil fuels. The electric cars adoption has long begun in Iceland and many think it´s rational that households’ second car is driven by electricity, but the shortage of fast charging stations prevents further development. The government will release their plan on increasing the number the charging station soon, says Ms. Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir Minister of Industry and Commerce, in an interview with the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service on 16th May. (http://www.ruv.is/frett/rikid-styrkir-fjolgun-rafhledslustodva)
“In connection with the climate summit in Paris the Icelandic government aims to achieve specific targets to reduce net emissions and one of the projects which is covered by my ministry is precisely to encourage further investment in the infrastructure for electric cars and in order to do so we set aside 67 million ikr. per year for three years ” says Ragnheiður Elín.
The grants are not just intended to set up charging stations but also for marketing and awareness campaigns. The Icelandic Energy Fund will allocate the projects but the priorities are still unclear. “We are still looking at how it´s best do this. Whether we will begin with the Ring road or certain towns remains to be seen. But we need to start this project to encourage and perhaps assist entrepreneurs and businesses to get started “.