Minister of Industry and Commerce
Visit of a Delegation from Canada and USA
19 September 2003
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honor and a pleasure for me to welcome you to Iceland as well as to the Hydrogen Seminar this morning. You have traveled a long way, from different regions of United States and Canada. I especially want to welcome the honorable Tim Sale, Minister of Energy, Science and Technology, from the Province of Manitoba, Canada. Manitoba and Iceland have strong cultural ties all the way back to the 1870s, and share a similar focus in many fields like energy, particular hydroelectric power as a main renewable source of energy.
For many years, it has been the policy of the Government of Iceland to, increase utilization of renewable energy resources in harmony with the environment. The policy and priorities on hydrogen are just one part of this long-term policy.
Iceland is the only western country that produces all its electricity from renewable natural resources, and almost 90% of all heating is based on geothermal sources. Furthermore, 72% of the total gross energy usage in the country derive from renewable energy resources, which is the highest in the world.
This success is a result of long-term priorities on renewable energy in Iceland, as well as access to huge and sustainable energy resources in the form of non-polluting and emission-free hydro and geothermal power. The utilization of these renewable energy resources is also one of the driving forces behind the nation's increased prosperity over the past few decades, not least due to foreign investment.
For many years hydrogen has been on the research agenda here in Iceland, and in 1998 the Government made a clear statement towards a Sustainable Hydrogen Society. The policy can be classified into 5 categories. These elements are 1) policy formulation, 2) favorable framework for business, 3) ongoing research, 4) international co-operation and 5) education and training. This policy is also an integrated part of our long-term policies on renewable energy and climate.
In April this year, the first hydrogen refueling station in Iceland and the first one built at a conventional petrol station in the world, was opened. That event was a important step in our policy towards a Sustainable Hydrogen Society here in Iceland. Opening of the station was a part of the ECTOS project, an international co-operation project, lead by the firm New Icelandic Energy, which will be discussed here today. The ECTOS project was the first one in Europe of its kind. In this project we see clearly how international co-operation is important.
One element of our policy is to create here in Iceland a favorable Platform for International Hydrogen Research. Iceland alone is not able to take big steps in this area – but in co-operation with others further steps can be taken.
Our long-term vision is that hydrogen fuel will replace the fossil fuel used for our transport sector and fishery fleet, as soon as it becomes technically and economically feasible. The fruits of this policy are better use of renewable energy, less pollution and positive elements for the climate change and the environment – with economic benefits and better public health.
We in Iceland, Canada and USA have a lot of opportunities to realize our plans for hydrogen development by using our vision, technology, opportunities and knowledge. We have a long way to go – but nothing happens without a dream, and we must have a dream for a better world.
I do hope that you have a fruitful and interesting visit to Iceland, and hopefully we can use this opportunity to take steps towards further international co-operation in the field of hydrogen.
I wish you all the best.