Environmental and climate issues
A strong transmission system is one of the key pillars of sustainable and eco-friendly energy use in Iceland. To reduce the current energy waste due to system constraints and bottlenecks, it is necessary to reinforce the grid. A stronger grid will increase Iceland’s ratio of renewable energy use, partly because more transmission capacity enables the replacement of fossil fuel systems with clean electricity, such as in transport, the fisheries industry and tourism, in line with government policy to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Declaration of climate targets
Landsnet is committed to tackling climate change. It was among the 103 companies to commit to specific climate action targets in the run-up to the 21st UN Climate Change Conference in the autumn of 2015. A declaration to this effect was signed at a ceremony at Höfði House in Reykjavík on the initiative of the City of Reykjavik and Festa – the Icelandic Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility.
Landsnet subsequently became a formal member of Festa, joining more than 60 Icelandic companies that endeavour to organise their activities in ways beneficial to society at large.
Environmental impacts and mitigating measures
No serious environmental incidents occurred in our activities in 2015. We place a high priority on continuous improvements in this respect. The environmental impact of our Grid Plan was assessed for the second time during the year in accordance with the Strategic Environmental Assessment Act.
Our tender documents for all Landsnet investment projects include stringent environmental requirements. Upon completion of line works, our staff carry out a special audit of the project’s standard of finish from an environmental standpoint in co-operation with key stakeholders, such as representatives of inspectorates, landowners and local authorities. As a statutory consultation body, Landsnet takes an active part in municipal planning to ensure that account is taken of planned works on the grid.
Such works have various environmental impacts, partly because of the construction of line tracks, the laying of underground cables and the installation of transmission towers, in addition to more subjective impacts.
Hella Line 2 – before and after
The visibility of overhead lines is mostly reversible. This is well exemplified by the demolition of the Hella Line 2 between the towns of Hella and Hvolsvöllur in south Iceland in the autumn of 2015. An underground cable was installed there to replace a 67-year old overhead line, one of the oldest in Iceland’s electricity system. This brought a major visual change, not least for Hella’s town centre where the line ran over the roundabout near the town hall and in front of a new hotel, as can be seen from the before-and-after photos below.
Co-operation on soil conservation
Icelandic power companies have played a major role in revegetating wind-eroded land in proximity to the electrical network all around the country. Since 2006, Landsnet has joined forces with the SCS to combat soil erosion and revegetate areas near transmission lines in the common pastures south of the Langjökull glacier and in the valley Víðidalur á Fjöllum.
The aim of this co-operation is to create a permanent vegetative cover in certain areas south of the Langjökull glacier, arrest wind and other soil erosion and strengthen weak vegetative cover. SCS brings expertise to the partnership and manages the project, whereas Landsnet funds the resources needed. Our soil conservation efforts have already delivered visible benefits. Soil seed banks that lay dormant in the ground have gained in strength and various grasses and plants have been coming along nicely, such as broad-leaved willow and alpine bartsia.
Research and outdoor recreation
Landsnet has throughout the years supported research into Iceland’s natural habitats and archaeological and cultural remains in connection with the construction of transmission lines and power stations. Knowledge of Iceland’s natural environment and heritage has thus grown in step with the country’s electrification.
Other Landsnet projects and activities that have benefited society at large include the construction of transmission line service roads, which have opened up access to the interior highlands for travellers and improved telecommunications, e.g. in the Kárahnjúkar and Blanda areas. Some service roads have enabled the public to explore areas of the country that were previously inaccessible except to the most intrepid explorers, such as the track along the Sultartangi Lines 1 and 3. This track runs along the edge of the highlands south of the Langjökull and Hofsjökull glaciers. Its most popular section extends from the Kjalvegur trail westward to the Uxahryggjarvegur road. Among this route’s pleasures are scenic views towards the Langjökull glacier, Mt Hlöðufell and Mt Skjaldbreiður.