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Norway has turn into a cleantech hotbed. That sentence could seem paradoxical given how fossil fuel-dependent the Norwegian financial system is. Oil and fuel have been the cornerstones of the nation’s wealth for the previous 5 a long time. The Authorities Pension Fund International, generally known as the Norwegian Oil Fund, has ballooned to turn into the biggest sovereign wealth fund on the earth due to the pure assets pumped out of the North Sea.

And it’s not as if Norway’s reliance on crude oil will come to an finish any time quickly. Forward of the parliamentary elections in September this 12 months, not one of the main events needed to wind down the oil business, even when there have been some grumblings in the direction of that finish from smaller ones.

So it might seem to be an odd dichotomy that the identical nationwide leaders have actively championed initiatives that might see the Scandinavian kingdom spearhead the inexperienced revolution.

Nevertheless, removed from simply being a greenwashing mission on a nationwide scale, there’s something to the declare that Norway is main the way in which on the subject of sustainability.

For one factor, the Environmental Efficiency Index ranked Norway because the ninth most sustainable nation on the earth in 2020. A part of that cause is that it’s not utilizing the mined fossil fuels domestically however exporting them as an alternative; Norway provides about 20 to 25% of the pure fuel utilized in Europe.

Nonetheless, irrespective of in the event you lower it right down to semantics or hypocrisy, the nation has been engaged on its inexperienced chops for a while.

“From the 90s there has all the time been a dialogue in Norway round how sustainable our society is,” Eiliv Flakne, head of media relationships at Enova, the government-owned firm supporting sustainable initiatives, tells Verdict. Based on the insider, the talk about sustainability “could be very a lot alive in Norway.”

The federal government’s acknowledged ambition is for “Norway to play a pioneering function within the growth of a inexperienced, round financial system that makes higher, extra environment friendly use of assets.”

The sentiment has been echoed from a number of political leaders over time. Conservative prime minister Erna Solberg – who misplaced the election and is now ready on Labour chief Jonas Gahr Støre to assemble a cupboard – has mentioned: “Authorities and enterprise should workforce up in new methods to drive innovation and create jobs.”

Elsewhere, Raymond Johansen, the mayor of Oslo, has described the adoption of sustainable initiatives as each an “moral and an ethical” obligation.

Regardless of the paradox between being a significant fossil gasoline exporter and its ambition of offering clear power, the very fact of the matter is that cleantech startups and different initiatives are quickly popping up throughout Norway.

As world leaders are gearing as much as collect in Glasgow for COP26, the query is that if they will be taught a factor or two from Norway on the best way to nurture sustainable expertise.

Electrical automobiles within the quick lane

It might sound a bit humorous, however in the event you’re in search of a visual signal that the cleantech revolution is going on in Norway, you must look no additional than the vehicles on the highway. International drivers would seemingly be stunned to see how commonplace Teslas are in Norway. Electrical vehicles held a 54% market share in 2020 and that quantity is simply set to develop.

The nationwide aim is that each one new vehicles offered needs to be zero-emission ones by 2025. Because the Nineteen Nineties, consecutive governments have inspired residents to purchase hydrogen and electrical vehicles by providing them perks like tax cuts and entry to bus lanes.

One other seen signal of the nation’s inexperienced intentions is the sum of money put in the direction of sustainability. In Might 2020, the federal government proposed a inexperienced transition fund value 3.6bn Norwegian crowns ($369m) to assist make the financial system extra sustainable. Of these, 2bn Norwegian crowns can be managed by Enova, the state-owned firm that has supported and helped finance over 10,854 inexperienced initiatives since 2012. These embrace all the pieces from supporting resort renovations to creating them extra power environment friendly, to putting in charger factors for electrical automobiles.

Innovasjon Norge, the government-owned firm set as much as help Norwegian entrepreneurship, has additionally put devoted funds in the direction of cleantech, each domestically and overseas.

Collectively, these initiatives have additionally helped create a nurturing surroundings the place sustainable startups can thrive.

“Wow, that is going to alter the world”

Andreas Thorsheim is likely one of the entrepreneurs spearheading the Norwegian sustainable expertise sector. After visiting a Tesla manufacturing facility in California with former colleague Peter Carlsson – who went on to discovered Swedish automobile battery maker Northvolt – he began to learn up on inexperienced power and sustainability, ploughing via analysis papers and experiences like there was no tomorrow.

“I realised that, wow, that is going to alter the world,” he tells Verdict.

Not resting on his laurels, he and his three co-founders determined to launch Otovo, {the marketplace} for residential photo voltaic installations, in 2016. The startup listed in Norway earlier this 12 months and is offering its providers in Sweden, France, Spain, Poland and Italy. It’s planning to launch in Germany later this 12 months.

Because the founder and CEO of the corporate, Thorsheim has had a front-row seat to the evolution of Norway’s cleantech sector, particularly entrepreneurs’ entry to funding.

“Now it’s nice,” he says, “however three, 4 years in the past it was tremendous exhausting. The Norwegian tech scene was immature [and] the oil sector had this gravitational pool on expertise and cash. And there have been [little examples of proof that you could] become profitable out of cleantech, each in Norway and internationally. And in the event you look 4 or 5 years again, the traditional knowledge was that cleantech was the one class wherein you couldn’t become profitable as a enterprise capitalist.”

That has modified over the previous few years as sustainability has turn into a precedence for extra corporations. Traders are more and more placing the screws on enterprise leaders to make sure they keep environmentally pleasant, lower emissions and shield the surroundings.

“The monetary sector is including extra stress for net-zero, warning that local weather threat is monetary threat,” analysts famous in a current thematic analysis report from GlobalData. “Massive asset managers are starting to vote towards the administration of corporations they consider aren’t adequately addressing local weather threat of their enterprise methods.”

With COP26 across the nook, the give attention to inexperienced alternate options is hardly going to vanish.

On the identical time, cleantech startups around the globe have confirmed their chops over the previous few years by making income and offering a return for buyers.

“[Those] local weather tech success tales [primed] buyers for the subsequent huge factor within the [sector], Thorsheim says.

“So there have been all these good issues coming collectively for local weather applied sciences. For our Collection A we had over 300 investor conferences and solely raised €6m. For the final one we had 40 conferences and everybody got here with cash. We raised €30m in a matter of days.”

Perks and challenges for Norway’s cleantech startups

Norwegian cleantech startups have benefited from the nation’s long-running coverage of creating the nation greener. Thorsheim argues that the nation’s investments in electrical vehicles, sustainable expertise and renewable hydrogen power, which makes up for 99% of the nation’s electrical energy, might assist startups like Otovo get a leap on their European rivals.

“Individuals’s houses are already electrified with clear power and tremendous digital, and people issues imply that we form of function in an surroundings (which) is what France, Germany and the UK are going to appear like in possibly 5 years from now,” he says. “So that you form of get a bonus from having a sneak peek on the future.”

However, there are challenges that cleantech startups face in Norway. For starters, labour is pricey in Norway. Engineers working within the petroleum sector might count on an annual wage of as much as $99,010 per 12 months, in response to Statistics Norway. Engineers in different sectors on common take dwelling $78,953 every year.

Comparatively, engineers in Britain had a median wage of £47,896 ($64,485) in 2018, in response to The Engineer.

The second hurdle to beat is that, with a inhabitants of solely 5.3 million individuals, the home market is kind of small in Norway.

“That’s a little bit of a double edged sword,” Thorsheim says. “It’s straightforward to turn into king at dwelling, nevertheless it’s additionally a really small dwelling market. So you’re pressured to exit. You may’t turn into a unicorn by solely promoting to Norwegians.”

In different phrases, Norway’s cleantech startups are aiming to go worldwide, beating international rivals to the punch of their stride. Possibly that’s one thing for different world leaders to think about as they collect in Glasgow for COP26.