Green Energy Contribution to the Circular Economy

Jóna Bjarnadóttir, EVP Community and Environment, and Jóhanna Hlín Auðunsdóttir, ED Climate and Environment.

Landsvirkjun, Iceland‘s power company, generates over 70% of total electricity produced in the country. The Company‘s production of electricity is from renewable resources and it has one of the lowest carbon footprint in the industry worldwide. In 2020, Landsvirkjun‘s emissions from greenhouse gases were only 3.7 g/kWh, but the general benchmark for green energy production is 100 g/kWh. In other words, GHG emissions from generating green energy can fill a 100 g glass and still be considered green, while Landsvirkjun‘s GHG emissions would just cover the bottom of the glass.

But what does green energy contribute to the circular economy? What are its main sources, what kind of waste is generated by its production, which areas are affected by it, and what methods are available to reduce possible negative impact?

Landsvirkjun‘s green energy production is sourced from hydropower, geothermal energy or wind power. Each key source is available on its relevant plant site and is immediately returned back into its natural processes (hydrologic cycle, weather system), where it replenishes and can be used again and again. In hydroelectric power plants, water runs through the machinery on its way to the ocean; in geothermal power plants, the production requirement is geothermal water, heated on its way through hot bedrock under the earth‘s crust, also running to the ocean; and then there is the wind we all know so well, perhaps only too well here in Iceland. These resources are renewable and sustainable, unlike burnt petrol and diesel, which do not belong to the cycle of renewable resources. It is vital to close as many loops of resources in the circular economy as possible, and that is exactly what green energy does. Green energy plays a major role in the cyclical process of natural resources, as well as being the foundation for recycling resources used in diverse manufacturing.

The Greatest Impact May Be Further Afield

Green energy is beneficial for everyone, households as well as companies, in production or services and increasingly in transportation. The value of green energy in the circular economy is vital, as it enters the value chain with a very low carbon footprint and using green energy is neither polluting nor does it produce waste. Certainly, harnessing natural resources is an intrusion in nature and various supplies are required during the construction of a power plant and for its operations, with waste material being produced. Landsvirkjun places importance on gathering information on the impact throughout the entire value chain and always selects environmentally sound solutions, in addition to keeping the eco footprint from procurement of products and services to the minimum and reducing waste production.

The impact or emissions from Landsvirkjun‘s operational sites are not the only issue, rather the whole process of the production, from start to finish. The Company has undertaken a thorough research to gather information on how it can reduce as much as possible the impact on the environment and the climate from its operations. The findings are strategically used to lower waste production and boost recycling. As an example, procurement of products and services aims at selecting the ones with the lowest eco footprint. This is done with the aid of internal carbon pricing to assess the tenders for various products, using the eco footprint as a parameter. The largest part of the Company‘s procurements is various equipment, steel, concrete and the use of diesel and petrol during construction. However, Landsvirkjun continuously aims at improving the efficiency of products and looks for ways to re-use or extend the life-cycle of products.

Lower Eco Footprint of Products and Services

Landsvirkjun will steadfastly continue to take a proactive approach to environmental challenges by producing electricity with a very low carbon footprint. Products and services generated using Landsvirkjun‘s electricity have a lower eco footprint. In addition, the Company works in a responsible manner to reduce emissions from its operations, whether they originate from its own operational sites, or from suppliers‘ and service providers‘ sites. Together we share the responsibility to take action, preserve the sustainability of resources and reduce emissions from greenhouse gases.