Government re-evaluates alternatives to disputed Hardanger power lines

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Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg met opponents of overhead power lines in Hardanger face-to-face in his office on Tuesday, and later said his government would re-evaluate the possibility of running an underwater cable through the area instead.

In an effort to prove he was listening to “the wishes from Hardanger,” Stoltenberg spent two hours meeting with the mayors of several local townships in the area where the power lines would be erected, along with the mayor for Hordaland County. They had been clamoring for a session with Stoltenberg, and when it was over, he called in reporters.

The government, he said, had drafted a proposal with the local government leaders that he claims will ensure both delivery of adequate power supplies to Bergen and other west coast communities and that it’s done in way that takes the environment into consideration.

Oil and Energy Minister Terje Riis-Johansen, who sat next to Stoltenberg at the session, confirmed that “we will do what’s been wanted in Hardanger, that is to conduct an independent evaluation of the issue.”

That will include re-evaluation of running a power cable under the fjord instead of over it, a so-called sjøkabel (sea cable). The government earlier dismissed that alternative, claiming it was too expensive and would be difficult and time consuming to make any necessary repairs.

Now Stoltenberg says that if the advantages of an underwater cable are greater than the disadvantages, “it will be a sea cable.” The re-evaluation is due for completion by February 1, reports Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

The most important thing, according to Stoltenberg, is to ensure electricity supplies for Bergen so in the meantime, work will move forward on the power line project. He suggested that perhaps the project in the end will involve a combination of overhead lines and an underwater cable.

Debate over so-called “monster masts” has raged all summer, with Hardanger residents fearing they would ruin the scenery and hurt the area’s important tourism industry. Opponents have threatened to resort to civil disobedience in an effort to block construction of the the overhead lines, and the issue also has divided the government coalition that Stoltenberg heads.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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