Minister offers new compromise

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An underground, instead of undersea, cable may wind up as the compromise solution to a heated political conflict over how to run power lines through the scenic mountain area around Norway’s Hardanger Fjord. 

Oil & Energy Minister Terje Riis-Johansen needs to find a solution to the conflict over power lines through Hardanger. PHOTO: Statsministerenskontor

Newspaper Aftenposten reported Thursday that embattled Oil & Energy Minister Terje Riis-Johansen is inviting all sides in the conflict to discuss the possibility of running underground lines though some of the most hotly contested areas opposed to overhead power lines.

Opponents of the overhead power lines and so-called “monster masts” have been arguing in favor of an undersea cable that would run along the bottom of the Hardanger Fjord, bringing needed electricity to Bergen from power plants to the east. Statkraft, the state-owned utility in charge of supplying and distributing power around Norway, has argued against undersea cables, claiming they’re far too expensive and can be difficult to repair.

Riis-Johansen set off a storm of controversy just before the summer holidays began when he, backed by the coalition government led by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, granted Statkraft the authority to built overhead power lines. He and Stoltenberg have since retreated, at least partially, and have promised to evaluate alternatives, but there’s still no guarantee the overhead lines won’t be built.

Aftenposten reported that a new alternative may be a combination of underground lines through Granvin and Ulvik at the eastern end of Hardanger, an undersea cable under the narrow Fyksesund towards the western end and  overhead lines in other areas.

“I have invited the (local politicians) to a dialogue on possible improvements, other routes,” Riis-Johansen told Aftenposten. “They’re sticking with the undersea cable alternative, but in the hopes of moving forward, I invite them to look at this.

“We can do something about the fjord crossings.”

Offensive masts and power lines extending over the fjord is what’s set off the most howls of protest. Riis-Johansen has rejected one demand to freeze all work on the overhead lines. He and Stoltenberg have claimed they’ll collect independent assessments of the power project and re-evaluate it by February 1.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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