Trump's Coveted Norwegian Power Is Looking to Feed Tech Giants

Highlighted as a strength by U.S. President Donald Trump, Norway is dangling its abundant hydro power to lure technology companies to establish the next generation of hyper scale data centers.

In an attempt to catch up with its rivals in Scandinavia—where titans such as Facebook Inc. and Google have found homes for their data centers—Norway’s Statkraft AS, Europe’s largest renewable energy producer, has been flying back and forth to Silicon Valley and other tech hot spots.

“Data centers are clearly the fastest growing power-intensive industry in the world,” Atle Haga , program director of data centers at Statkraft, said in an interview. “They are the industrial factories of our time and fortunately they don’t pollute, at least if the computers are run by renewable Norwegian hydro power.”

Hydro power, a cornerstone of industrial development in Norway, makes up about 95 percent of its electricity production. That was recently praised by President Donald Trump at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Erna Solberg last week.

Norway is struggling to find new industries to replace declining petroleum resources that have made the nation one of the world’s richest. The establishment of a first hyper scale data center would be a next step in an ongoing economic transition and create jobs that aren’t dependent on swings in the oil price.

As an example, neighboring Sweden stands to benefit from about 50 billion kronor a year in investments in 2025 and add 27,000 more jobs from its data center expansion, according to a 2016 report by the Boston Consulting Group.

“It’s not the new oil, but it’s a good contribution,” Haga said.

What’s more, as cryptocurrency miners consume more and more energy in the hunt for digital gold, Norway could provide a base for the data crunchers with an abundant supply of clean energy. Even though Statkraft isn’t actively attracting business in that sector, it may provide opportunities down the line.

“They are likely to be mined somewhere in the world, so maybe it’s better that it’s done somewhere with renewable energy instead of coal-based power,” Haga said.

By Sveinung Sleire

By Bloomberg News / 18 Jan 2018