Power development from a landowner’s perspective

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Photo: Valdres avis

Written by: Eli Belsheim 10/12/2022

I STAND BY MY OWN DECISION.

We have been through a long and well considered process on the subject of power plants, and I know that people in the village and in Valdres also have thoughts about this, as well as quite a few opinions. This is why it is important for me to shed some light on the issue of power plants in Rysna.

The newspaper “Valdres” had a debate post in December 2022, which raised questions about the development of small-scale power plants and ownership structures of these. It is both important and necessary to ask big questions about the impact on nature, such as the local politician has done. All credit to him for that! We need this. It is important for local democracy, and it is important for nature, the present and the future. But maybe next time he should try to do it without making inaccurate claims about local initiatives? I would like to answer, on my own behalf, to shed some light on the issue from a landowner’s point of view, since the river I co-own was mentioned several times in the local politician’s post.

One of the main arguments in the post is that private property and natural resources will end up in foreign hands, and that this is problematic. It should be no surprise that we are currently living in an international society, with foreign capital in Norwegian companies, and where Norwegian funds are being invested abroad. But why are Norwegian resources ending up in foreign hands? How willing are Norwegian municipalities and companies to make investments with such long horizons for capital returns as an investment in a power plant would require? Or other companies with much shorter horizons for capital returns, for that matter?

“The Rysna small-scale power plant is currently owned by AQ Capital, registered in Luxembourg,” the debater writes. This gives the impression that the ownership of the river has been sold, and directly to foreign countries, but this is incorrect. The developer and owner of Rysna Kraftverk is Småkraft AS, a Norwegian company. AQ capital has shares in Småkraft AS. The truth is: the landowners in Rysna still own both the land and waterfall rights, and after a certain number of years, the entire power plant will go back to the landowners. In Tørpegardane.

To make his point, the debater chooses to highlight several local rivers, and claims that “the encroachments on nature along the Rysna are enormous”. As a landowner of large parts of the stretch of penstock on the relevant section of Rysna, I can inform you that the penstocks cross over pasture and cultivated land. This pasture and cultivated land will be returned in a condition that is at least as good, if not better, after completion.This cannot be considered any greater encroachment on nature than when roads and new housing estates are built on the land, or when the municipality now is digging for new water and sewage in the centre of Vang at the moment.

And since the debater seems to like singling out Rysna, and in the same breath write about the loss of outdoor recreation areas, I can tell you that one of the major assessments that arose early in the process was one that involved the recreational area. But this stretch of the river crosses pastures and a terrain that is so steep, it’s not even enjoyable to walk there. It runs through such a deep gorge that no one can even see the river, and of course the NVE has set requirements for minimum water flow ensure life in and along the river. I trust that NVE knows what they are doing.

We therefore chose to proceed with the process of applying for a licence. To help create renewable energy. Isn’t that what the world has agreed that we need? Renewable energy? Don’t we all have electricity in our houses, and don’t we need it to charge our electric cars?

The process for achieving the rights to a waterfall is very long. We started in 2009. This was a well-considered matter, with years of hard work, gathering knowledge, writing licence applications, and ensuring consultations and assessments. The debater writes that he is embarrassed by his own efforts as a local politician during the licensing negotiations in 2015. I am anything but embarrassed of my own efforts to take care of my farm, the resources that belong to the farm, and the income I can now get, which will help ensure that I can continue to take care of and further develop my farm. Because realising waterfall rights is for me my basic right as a farm owner. And it is my right and duty to look after, develop and make use of the resources on my farm, to ensure that it is even a little better for the next generation.Whether this involves felling a mature forest, using the pasture, keeping livestock, snowploughing in the neighbourhood, renting out, cutting firewood, or gaining waterfall rights, if this turns out to be possible.

The debater questions the issue of local value creation when establishing a power plant, and calls it “bullshit”. Bullshit? He doesn’t mention property tax to the municipality. He doesn’t mention waterfall rights for waterfall owners. I can assure you that a waterfall lease is anything but bullshit. A waterfall lease is valuable for a waterfall owner and the farm. It provides opportunities for more local value creation. Because farming is local value creation, isn’t it?

“So what do we have left as a local community?”, he asks, concluding with only negative things. I believe that the Rysna power plant is a well considered project for the local community, with far greater advantages than disadvantages. It is a project that contributes to renewable and clean energy, and in addition, we have agriculture, which has utilised its resources, thus increasing the probability of continued operations in the future. Maybe it is “bullshit”.

If so, I like bullshit.

Eli Belsheim

Link to the debate post in the Valdres newspaper

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