Nordic Energy Research has particular reason to look to the future right now. We are putting the last four-year period behind us and initiating a new strategy with new projects for the period 2011-2014. Time flies! I can recall the days when The Future was represented by the year 2000, and the year 2010 was Beyond the Future.

Those days are past. Nowadays, even the year 2020 is hardly a good enough symbol. In the energy sector, the goals and the way ahead are in practice set. The year has symbolic significance, but is merely a milestone on the way to a higher goal: a low-carbon society. According to the EU we should arrive there in 2050, the aim being a reduction of 80% in emissions compared with the level of the 1990s. In the currently ongoing work of developing a road map to achieve this there is one criterion which I find particularly interesting: “A zero-carbon power sector is absolutely necessary to meet our climate and energy commitments.”

We are laying the foundation right now by means of strategic investments in energy research and I can proudly say that Nordic Energy Research is at the forefront of this process. We are currently in the middle of evaluating proposals for our new 100 MNOK Nordic energy research programme and I am pleased to say that this has attracted considerable interest. The name of the call is Sustainable Energy Systems 2050 (SES2050) and the aim is to develop integrated solutions encompassing Renewables, Low-Carbon Transport, and Grids & Markets. In the initial pre-proposal stage we have received 90 applications for a total of NOK 1000 million. From these, 29 applicants have been selected to submit full proposals.

Although Nordic Energy Research is not involved in fossil fuel energy, like many others in the energy sector we are obliged to relate to it. This applies particularly to oil, since there is a close connection between the cost of oil consumption and interest in new energy solutions. It is common to refer to the so-called “oil burden” and according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) there is a risk that costs will remain at a higher level than is healthy for the global economy. At the time of writing the unrest in northern Africa has lasted for a couple of weeks and led to an increase in the price of oil. Maud Olofsson, the Swedish Minister for Enterprise and Energy, says of the increasing oil burden: “If it becomes long-term the solution is to switch to other types of fuel and since we cannot depend on oil supplies this is why we began a process of transition long ago.” The global dependence on oil seems to be too great to be healthy: Unrest in the world creates high oil prices, and high oil prices create unrest in the world. The need to work towards a low-carbon society appears increasingly obvious.

In addition to strategic research support Nordic Energy Research has long experience of working across national boundaries. Co-operation is more than just an interest for us – it is an essential part of our basis for existence. Hence we find it particularly interesting that in its energy meeting on 4 February the EU resolved to accelerate the process of harmonising the European electricity market. We naturally hope that the EU countries will look to and learn from the Nordic countries, which have one of the best-developed electricity markets in the world. Nordic Energy Research has got the opportunity to strengthen our expertise in this field and you can find out more about it in the edition of ORKA.

Swedish Energy Agency is also looking beyond national boundaries with its new conference, “Energy Outlook 2011”. I’ll be there. It will be exciting to take part in a completely new, major energy conference. I am particularly looking forward to participating in the closing panel debate in which we will discuss the energy supplies of the future. Perhaps I’ll see you at Energy Outlook 2011?
Anne Cathrine Gjærde Director, Nordic Energy Research