Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure for me to welcome you, members of Nordisk Metal and guests from Japan. Your meeting in Iceland happens to be at a very interesting time in the history of industrial development in this country
For over 50 years it has been the policy of all governments of Iceland to promote the utilisation of the country´s clean and renewable hydro and geothermal energy resources for sustainable power development. As a result of these efforts two-thirds of the total energy consumption comes from our own "green" energy resources completely without greenhouse gas emissions. Only one third is imported fuel for the fishing fleet and automobiles.
Consequently Iceland had already cleaned up in its backyard, as far as climatic impact is concerned, long before the global alarm in Rio. But we are determined to do even better, and that is why you see busses in the streets of Reykjavík using hydrogen fuel for experimental purposes.
Iceland is a volcanic island, just like Japan. Therefore both countries have geothermal energy resources, which are being harnessed. In Iceland the main use of geothermal energy is not for power generation but for domestic heating. 90% of the population enjoys this clean and renewable energy resource for keeping its houses warm saving lot of money compared with having to burn oil or other fossil fuel. The monthly heating cost for an average family house in the Reykjavík area, where most of the people live, is equal to the cost of a bottle of good whiskey, which I am sure, is difficult to match elsewhere.
Intensive energy marketing efforts initiated by the Ministry of Industry, particularly in the last 15 years, have brought about large investments in power generation and energy intensive industry.
Since 1995 we have seen energy sales to the power intensive industry more than double. The aluminium industry for example produces now annually 270.000 tons of primary aluminium in two plants. When the Norðurál smelter has doubled its size and the new Alcoa smelter will come on stream in 2006 and 2007, Iceland will produce annually up to 700.000 tons of aluminium annually. At the same time large power plants are being developed, 690 MW in Hydro and 200 MW in Geothermal.
As you can imagine all these projects need a lot of labour during construction. A recent survey made at my Ministry indicated for instance, that for a continuous period of 15 months in 2006 and 2007 there will be a substantial shortage of Icelandic metal workers. This situation offers a challenge for the Icelandic members of Nordisk Metal to deal with.
I welcome you to Iceland and wish you a nice stay.