The hidden price of Iceland’s green energy

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Iceland features many spectacular waterfalls and river canyons, which have been subject to renewable energy development for decades. (Photo: Henner Busch)

In times of runaway climate change, phasing out fossil fuels and increasing the share of renewables is imperative. But this transition is not without pitfalls as shown by a recent study of two large renewable projects in Iceland by LUCSUS researcher Henner Busch and Wim Carton.

The recent IPCC report has made it clear that we need to change our energy supply from fossils to renewable energy if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change. This transition has to happen now and it has to happen fast.

The good news is: renewable energy is a wonderful thing. As countless studies have shown, it can be cheap, low-carbon, good for regional development, and bring about great benefits for local people.

But, our new research cautions that these benefits are not inherent to renewable energy development and that each project needs to be carefully assessed on its merits.

Through a case study in Iceland, we show how the “green” image of renewable energy sometimes makes the public overlook the negative impacts of these technologies.

As a result, some of Iceland’s renewable energy resources have been misused to generate private profits for companies outside of the country. While, the benefits for the local population are, at best, questionable and large areas of unique nature have been lost forever.

Read the full article in Science Nordic here