Iceland is producing twice the amount of electricity today as it was at the time of the millennium celebreations, just eleven years ago. The country could well go on to double present-day energy generation as well.
In 2004, 8.7 terawatt hours of electricity were generated in Iceland per year — a figure which had shot up to 17 tw/h by 2009. The Karahnjukar hydroelectric dam, which was put into use in 2007, produces 5 tw/h on its own. That represents a near-doubling in five years. By comparison, energy production increased by 20 percent in the five previous years, between 1999 and 2004. All of Karahnjukar’s electricity production is used by the Alcoa aluminium smelter in Reydarfjordur.
The Icelandic government has published a resource utilisation plan for energy options in the country. The plan takes account of all potential energy production sites, then looks into their economic viability and their impact on nature and the environment. The document concludes that Iceland could realistically produce up to 53 tw/h per year.
Landsvirkjun, Iceland’s biggest energy company, generates 12 tw/h per year and plans to nearly double that figure in the next 14 years; meaning that company by itself would be producing 23 tw/h by 2025. It plans to achieve this by building 10 hydroelectric stations and four geothermal stations to 2025.
The National Energy Authority has calculated that Iceland’s energy production potential is 84 tw/h from all available hydro and geothermal sources. However, the figure does not take into account nature reserves and national parks (among other things) and a more realistic figure is 30-50 tw/h, RUV reports.
Energy use has been the subject of a wide ranging national debate in Iceland. Some people want the country to produce as much green energy as possible, while others believe the countryside is already impacted enough by human activity. Still others say that Iceland should produce energy, as long as it is not used for more heavy industry. International data centres and the possibility of an undersea cable to Scotland fit these people’s ideas better than smelters.