Climate Change Conference COP21
The world agrees that climate change is one of the most urgent issues of today.
In December 2015, one hundred and ninety-five countries reached a historical agreement to curb global greenhouse gas emissions at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21). This marks the largest step ever taken in worldwide environmental matters. One hundred and thirty countries, accounting for just over 80% of the world‘s GHG emissions, have so far ratified the agreement.
Iceland is one of these countries and is currently working on an action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. Landsvirkjun is determined in taking an active part in achieving this goal.
Caring for Climate
Landsvirkjun was one of 2000 companies to sign the Caring for Climate declaration at the Paris Climate Change Conference. The declaration states that climate change requires immediate and extensive action from the government, business community and worldwide citizens. Inaction could adversely affect prosperity, sustainable development and worldwide security. The declaration commits businesses to increasing energy efficiency, reducing the carbon footprint of its products, services and processes, setting objectives and releasing annual reports on the success rate of these measures.
Landsvirkjun also signed a joint declaration on climate action with the Icelandic Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (Festa) and the City of Reykjavik. A total of 104 companies and institutions signed the declaration.
Hörður Arnarson, Landsvirkjun’s CEO, attends a second seminar at the Paris summit “De-carbonising Global Energy Supply”.
Photograph published with the permission of the Sustainable Innovation Forum 2015.
The ‘carbon footprint’ is a measure of GHGs released into the atmosphere, either directly or indirectly as a result of anthropogenic activities and highlights the effects of human activity on climate change.
Landsvirkjun’s carbon footprint is defined as net annual GHG emissions from Landsvirkjun’s operations after including estimated carbon sequestration and carbon neutralising measures. Landsvirkjun’s total GHG emissions in 2016 were approx. 48 thousand tonnes CO2 -eq, a decrease of 7% between years.
Landsvirkjun has been involved in carbon sequestration measures since the Company was established. Land reclamation and re-forestation measures were carried out without any comprehension of the future implications of these projects which would later become important contributions to carbon sequestration and carbon neutrality objectives. Systematic monitoring and research work began in 2003 to study GHG emissions from electricity generation derived from hydropower and geothermal energy. Carbon neutrality objectives were introduced in 2007 and a comprehensive action plan on climate change was developed in 2015. The Company also decided that its carbon neutrality objective should be achieved no later than 2030.
- Land reclamation projects are launched in Landsvirkjun‘s operational areas.
- Research on reservoir emissions begins.
- Landsvirkjun‘s environmental management system is certified according to ISO 14001.
- Landsvirkjun participates in the Global Roundtable on Climate Change (GROCC).
- First report on Landsvirkjun‘s carbon footprint is published.
- Decision made on carbon offsetting.
- Proposals and action plan to reduce the effects of climate change in Landsvirkjun‘s operations is introduced.
- Life cycle assessment conducted on electricity generation at the Fljótsdalur Hydropower Station.
- Research begins on natural emissions from geothermal power stations.
- Agreements reached with the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland and the Icelandic Forest Service on carbon sequestration measures.
- Agreement reached with Kolviður Fund.
2013 - 2014
- Policy set on energy exchange and transport.
- Research begins on emissions from the Sporðalda Reservoir.
- Project on multiple- utilisation begins.
- A comprehensive action plan on climate change is developed.
- Landsvirkjun signs the Caring for Climate declaration on immediate measures to reduce the effects of climate change.
- Landsvirkjun sets its objective to become a carbon neutral company before 2030.
- Landsvirkjun signs a joint declaration on climate action with the Icelandic Center for Corporate Social Responsibility (Festa).
- New agreement reached with the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland and the Icelandic Forest Service on carbon sequestration measures.
The Company has been involved in extensive land reclamation and re-forestation projects for over four decades in the land areas surrounding its power stations. The Company has also been involved in carbon sequestration measures in vegetation and soil (within defined areas) since 2011. These projects have been carried out in collaboration with the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland and the Icelandic Forest Service. Landsvirkjun’s total amount of carbon sequestered is estimated to be 22,000 tonnes CO2 –eq.
Land reclamation photographs: Garðar Þorfinnsson © Forestry photographs: Einar Gunnarsson ©
Landsvirkjun has cooperated with Kolviður since 2013 on neutralising carbon emissions from the use of petrol and diesel for transportation purposes, the international and domestic air travel of employees, and the disposal of waste and SF6 emissions from electrical equipment. In 2016, these emissions were equal to approx. 968 tonnes of CO2 -eq and have now been neutralised via carbon sequestration in the forested areas of the country.
Landsvirkjun’s carbon footprint was estimated to be 25,204 thousand tonnes CO2 equivalents in 2016 which is equal to 1.8 tonnes of CO2 equivalents for each GWh generated in 2015. This is a decrease of 6% from the previous year. The carbon footprint has decreased in recent years and is now under the average recorded for the last five years despite an increase in energy generation. The decrease can be attributed to less steam emissions for each GWh generated at the geothermal power stations.
Origin of greenhouse gas emissions
The largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can be traced to Landsvirkjun’s geothermal power stations which account for 67% of emissions. The reservoirs at the Company’s hydropower stations account for 31% and other sources include fossil fuels, waste disposal and SF6 emissions from electrical equipment (2%).
Greenhouse gas emissions can vary substantially when hydropower and geothermal power stations are compared. The carbon footprint for every GWh generated by geothermal stations was 62 tonnes CO2-eq/GWh in 2016 whereas the carbon footprint for every GWh generated by hydropower stations was 0.454 tonnes of CO2-eq/GWh where carbon removal measures go beyond the emissions produced by hydropower.
Geothermal fluid is extracted from wells, at a depth of 2000 metres, in high temperature geothermal areas during the utilisation process. Geothermal fluid is composed of steam, water and various gases within the steam. Geothermal gas is mostly composed of carbon dioxide (approx. 80-95% by weight), hydrogen sulphide (5-20% by weight) and other gases (less than 1%), including the greenhouse gas methane.
It is a matter of opinion whether the GHG emissions from geothermal power stations are manmade or in fact natural emissions from the geothermal area. The inclusion of these emissions in national emissions inventories for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) varies between countries but Iceland includes this information in its accounts. More information can be accessed in Landsvirkjun’s Green Accounts.
Landsvirkjun’s Green Accounts for 2016 can be accessed here (in Icelandic only).