Statement by Ambassador Hjálmar W. Hannesson
Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
58th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations
16 October 2003
SECOND COMMITTEE AGENDA ITEM 94 (a):
Environment and sustainable development:
Promotion of new and renewable sources of energy,
including the implementation of the World Solar Programme 1996-2005
Since this is the first time my delegation takes the floor in the second committee during this General Assembly, allow me at the outset to congratulate you and other members of the bureau on the assumption of your responsibilites. Let me also gratefully acknowledge the Secretary-General´s Reports and thank the officials for introducing them this morning. I will limit my comments to Agenda item 94 (a).
My delegation welcomes the highlighting of this important issue on today's agenda. Access to energy is crucial to development. It is estimated that around two billion people do not yet have access to electricity. However, we are painfully aware that providing them with electricity through fossil fuels would take an enormous toll on the environment. Furthermore, this would not provide a lasting solution, as fossil fuels are not inexhaustible, so that an alternative and sustainable energy source must be developed.
Iceland is fortunate in having rich resources of clean renewable energy. Iceland is the only country in the western world to produce 100% of its electricity by renewable means, mainly by hydroelectricity, a related derivative of solar energy. The heat of the sun transforms water from oceans and lakes into clouds, providing the rain that feed rivers that are harnessed to produce hydroelectricity. Electrical production in Iceland is totally carbon free.
Some of our electricity also derives from geothermal sources, which also provide us with energy for over 95% of our space heating. Indeed, 72% of our total energy needs are currently provided with renewable sources. The remaining 28% of all primary energy used in Iceland is provided by hydrocarbons and is accounted for mainly by the fishing fleet and motor vehicles and metals industries.
Further steps could never the less be taken in utilizing our sustainable energy resources. For many years it has been the policy of the Government of Iceland to increase the use of renewable energy resources by offering Iceland as a site for power intensive industries, thus decreasing the global pollution caused by energy production in other countries. This is in fact an example of using a derivative of solar power for heavy industry to minimize its environmental impact.
Furthermore, Iceland has been looking for means to utilize its clean energy resources for powering vehicles and ships. Already in the year 1999, the Icelandic Government made clear its intention to progress towards a Sustainable Hydrogen Society.
As a result of this policy we already have three hydrogen fuel cell buses running on the streets of Reykjavik as a part of the Ecological City Transport System Project, ECTOS that is supported by the European Commission. The buses take hydrogen at a fueling station, producing hydrogen from water from Reykjavik Water Works on the spot with electricity from the local grid. Other parallel cooperation projects have already been initiated for developing and introducing hydrogen as a fuel for ships and for exploring possibilities for exporting it.
The Icelandic government is set on nurturing these projects and developing further contacts in this field. A pioneering company, Icelandic New Energy, has been established in partnership with strong international corporations that are using Iceland as an experimental ground for new technology in the field of hydrogen. The University of Iceland and Icelandic New Energy have received dozens of delegations from all over the world and are building up a network of contacts.
Abundant hydro-resources and national awareness of the need for clean energy is not by itself sufficient to herald Iceland into the new age of the hydro-economy. Cooperation with other countries and international corporations is needed for developing the needed technology and applications. It is necessary to build up an international consensus for eco-friendly energy solutions - to accelerate technical innovations and lower production cost.
Therefore, Iceland's commitment to developing sustainable energy resources and its long-term interest in developing the hydrogen economy should be viewed in an international perspective. Iceland's transition to the hydrogen economy will not happen in isolation from the world at large. We need and we must work with others to make this an integral part of a global agenda if we are to succeed.
We are proud of our participation in hydrogen projects in Europe and we are looking forward to participating in the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy (IPHE) to be inaugurated in Washington in November at the initiative of the United States.
If we are to live up to the objectives we set ourselves at the World Summit on Sustainable Development at Johannesburg - the development of sustainable and non-polluting primary sources of energy such as solar energy or its related derivatives will have to be a key element. The introduction of hydrogen as an energy carrier is an important step in extending the use of these energy sources.
I thank you, Madam Chairperson.