This is a short introduction outlining the working process of the Icelandic Master Plan for Hydro and Geothermal Energy Resources 1999-2010.
The process has been split in two phases; Phase 1, 1999-2003, and Phase 2, 2004-2010.
Phase 1 concluded with a preliminary ruling due to limited research and data. Phase 2 was split in two parts; the first was a continuity stage, 2004-2007, responsible for further research and information gathering, but during the second part, 2007-2009, a new steering committee regenerated the evaluation process to be completed by the end of 2009. Completion has been further postponed until late 2010.
In addition to the introduction below, more extended and detailed descriptions in English can be found in the following sources :
- Steingrímsson, B., Björnsson, S., Adalsteinsson, H.: Master Plan for Geothermal and Hydropower Development in Iceland. A Presentation at Short Course on Geothermal Development in Central America – Resource Assessment and Environmental Management, organized by UNU-GTP and LaGeo, in San Salvador, El Salvador, 25 November – 1 December, 2007.
- Thórhallsdóttir, Th.E , 2006a: Environment and energy in Iceland: A comparative analysis of values and impacts. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 27 (2007) 522–544.
- Thórhallsdóttir Th.E, 2006b: Strategic planning at the national level: Evaluating and ranking energy projects by environmental impact. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 27 (2007) 545–568.
Iceland has been blessed with extensive resources of renewable hydro and geothermal energy. However, only a portion of these energy resources has as yet been harnessed (approx. 20–25%). Further development of energy production in Iceland will be a challenging task, as user interests, other than those concerned solely with energy, will have to be taken into account.
Policy decisions on land use can have a significant, profound, and prolonged impact on nature, regional development, tourism and outdoor activities, employment, and on society at large. Carefully thought-out decision making will minimise the risk of mistakes and shortsighted undertakings, and enhance co-operation among all partners affected by the decisions taken.
This process was initiated by the Government of Iceland in 1999, with the aim of developing a Master Plan for Hydro and Geothermal Energy Resources. The process has been formulated on a scientific and impartial basis – not dominated by narrow and biased interests – and is open to democratic public involvement and scrutiny.
The Two Phases
The process has been split into two phases. The first phase, 1999–2003, evaluated and ranked 20 large-scale hydro-power options, mostly located in the highlands, and the same number of geothermal options in 8 high-temperature areas. The second phase, 2007–2009, will add some 30–40 major hydro and geothermal options. The second phase will rank all the options to produce the final result, which will be based on the latest research and take into account stakeholders differing criteria. For instance, the second phase will include an evaluation of whether some areas should be conserved completely, without any energy-harnessing activities.
In the Master Plan's preparatory process, proposed power projects will be evaluated and categorised on the basis of efficiency, economic profitability, and how they will benefit the economy as a whole. The implications for employment and regional development will also be considered. Furthermore, the impact on the environment, nature, and wildlife will be evaluated, as well as the impact on the landscape, cultural heritage and ancient monuments, grazing and other traditional land use, outdoor activities fishing, and hunting.
The Master Plan will be based on the best available scientific research and information. Furthermore, in order to establish confidence and trust in the process, the public and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will be informed of the findings of experts (individuals and groups) at all stages of the evaluation process.
In order to facilitate public participation during the first phase, Landvernd, the National Association for the Protection of the Icelandic Environment (an NGO), was assigned the task of establishing a forum for discussion and information exchange. This forum was based on an interactive homepage, open meetings, workshops, and co-operation with the media.
The Master Plan's second stage followed a similar path, i.e. with a dedicated homepage (www.rammaaaetlun.is), dialogue with different stakeholders, public meetings, media collaboration, and NGO involvement.
Responsibility for the Project
The Master Plan was jointly initiated by The Ministry of Industry and The Ministry for the Environment, which share responsibility for the project. At the start of the project, the Ministry of Industry, in co-operation with the Ministry of the Environment, established special Steering Committees to lead the the programme.
The first committee, comprising 16 members, prepared a preliminary ranking at the end of 2003, but was unable to complete the final evaluation due to a lack of scientific research. In 2007, a second Steering Committee of 14 members was formed, in order to complete the programme by the end of 2009, which has been delayed until 2010..
In their functions, the Committees have been supported by a number of experts and professionals working in four different working groups.
- Working Group I evaluates what impact proposed power projects will have on nature, the landscape, geological formations, vegetative cover, and flora and fauna, as well as cultural heritage and ancient monuments.
- Working Group II evaluates the impact on tourism, outdoor actvities agriculture, re-vegetation, fishing in rivers and lakes, and hunting.
- Working Group III evaluates the impact that proposed power projects can have on economic activity, employment, and regional development.
- Working Group IV identifies potential power projects, both hydro and geothermal, and carries out technical and economic evaluations.
The Evaluation Process
The National Energy Institute and power companies have compiled reports on project proposals they wish to have evaluated by the Steering Committee. Most of these reports have been made public and, as a first phase in the process, the public and interested organisations have had an opportunity to review the reports and offer comments.
Subsequently, the reports have been, and will be, evaluated and graded by the four working groups of experts. The groups findings will then be compiled by the Steering Committee and all projects graded on the basis of their overall feasibility.
Finally, the Steering Committee will categorise the project proposals and identify: on one hand, proposals that appear to be feasible in terms of both their economic implications and their environmental consequences; on the other hand, proposals that, for economic or environmental reasons, should not be carried out, whether for the foreseeable future or only until further impact studies have been made.
The result of this work, which is planned to be finished by the end of 2009, will be a proposed Master Plan for the utilisation of hydro and geothermal energy resources.
An Open Process
All reports will be made public in order to make it possible for the public, interested parties, and associations to actively participate in the process. Both the Steering Committee and the Working Groups will receive comments and information from the public during the process. Minutes from the meetings of the Steering Committee will be made public. Reports on individual projects will be presented in open meetings and made available on this website.
As a result, the Master Plan will lead to a greater degree of cohesion between viewpoints on the further utilisation of energy resources, different land-use interests, and the conservation of the land and nature.