Iceland President: Green energy helped our economic recovery by Doug Mohney
Icelandic President Olafur Rangar Grimsson says its low-carbon economy helped it recover from the country's banking collapse in 2008 and its lessons could help other European countries as well, reports oilprice.com.
Speaking before members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) at a February 27 meeting in Paris, Grimsson held up his country's move into 100 percent renewable power as a reason why the country made it through the its catastrophic 2008 banking collapse.
Up until the 1970s, Iceland was classified by the UNDP as a developing country. The economy was dependent upon fishing and sheep farming, with the country dependent upon a mix of imported coal and oil.
"In the decades that followed we radically transformed our energy system so now 100 percent of our electricity production and 100 percent of house heating is provided by domestic renewable resources," Grimsson told ambassadors. (You can find his official remarks here on the President of Iceland's website).
Low cost electricity and heating compared to other European countries helped families and businesses during the downturn while providing incentives for industrial investments such as aluminum smelters and data center facilities. Over a ten year period, renewable power from geothermal house heating alone works out to save an amount equal to a year's GNP.
But it's more than just saving money. Renewable power expertise is now fueling Iceland's foreign policy and diplomatic expertise, with Icelandic firms participating in geothermal projects around the globe, including China, India, Russia, and the United States.
Climate change is clearly on Iceland's doorstep, but Grimsson said the discussion needs to go beyond a simple discussion on electricity production and examine the multiple economic and business opportunities resulting from a clean energy economy.
Long term access to clean (and low-cost) energy has been a magnet for foreign investment. In turn, high-tech and IT companies taking advantage of low carbon energy are more likely to attract "enlightened customers" from all over the world. Clean energy projects have also acted as a boost for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education, enabling universities to strengthen their capabilities and offer expertise outside of the country.
At this point, I have to point out not every nation can be just like Iceland. The country is uniquely gifted with a combination and high-concentration of hydro and geothermal resources.
However, Grimsson makes a point equally applicable to nations and data centers alike: "[T]he development of a clean energy economy is a good insurance policy against long-term difficulties which inevitably will continue to follow the financial crises of the future; against making the downturns of economic cycles too painful," he said.
Data center operators would do well to ponder the advantages of moving to a clean energy policy with the ability to tap into local renewable sources for their own long-term financial operations.