The Hydroelectric Power Problem

Though providing clean, green electricity, Hydroelectric Power construction threatens biodiversity. A report by the Norwegian Nature Conservation Association government brings into focus its potential effects.

The study, “Norges areal (Norway’s area) 2021”, finds the largest 1,900 hydropower plants in Norway have impacted large natural areas and many species.

Leader of the Nature Conservation Association, Truls Gulowsen (pictured), says that while people would agree that the loss of natural areas is a problem, big regional authorities don’t have an overview of the causes. This report reveals the key threats to biodiversity in order to inform improvements.

He suggest a practical step is to stop using virgin natural areas as industrial sites. If they must be used then this should be off-set by restoring other natural areas. Some municipalities have adopted such a principle and others should follow.

The Nature Conservation Association concludes that it is hydropower has had the biggest direct impact on reducing the amount of natural land. 1,233 km2 of land has been submerged due to the construction of dams and water reservoirs.

That is more than enough, even with current high electricity demand, Gulowsen believes.

Nevertheless, both the Labour Party (AP) and the Progress Party (FrP) have recently proposed the development of even protected waterways.

In terms of “direct intervention”, the biggest use of natural land after HEP are roads/transport (including trains, subways, trams, airports, parking lots, quay areas, pedestrian and cycle paths), occupying 1,131 km2 of Norway’s land and in third place, buildings at 568 km2 or, if including gardens / accompanying land, 2,732 km2.

In the category of loss of natural land due to a change to another natural use, forestry has impacted 48,421 km2 of habitat, followed by agriculture at 11,214 km2.

Gulowsen encourages all municipalities to act as soon as possible, because the threats to the remaining nature only increase.

2,752 species are considered endangered. Of these, 289 are critically endangered and 959 are highly endangered, according to the Norwegian Red List of Species 2021.


Slik blir norsk natur spist opp (This is how Norwegian nature is eaten up), Dagsavisen, 2022-01-06

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