Theater of Cruelty

The trump that was not played


Former prime minister and right-wing leader Kåre Willoch warned against making homecoming and the ownership of hydropower a theme in the election campaign during the national assembly to National Association of Hydropower Communi- ties in Loen in early August. He probably knew what he was doing when he asked representatives of 150 hydropower municipalities to forget this issue in the election campaign. The right-wing leadership wisely followed Willoch's advice. But why did the red-green do it?

Why did not Kristin Halvorsen or Øystein Djupedal say once on television: «The choice is a value choice – shall we defend the basis for Norway's welfare – ownership of natural resources – or should we sell this basis abroad. The Conservatives want to both sell out Statoil and sell ours

hydropower resources abroad? »

For me it is incomprehensible that something like this has not been said by SVs (or the other red-green party leaders) in the TV debates ahead of the election. The case was only discussed generally a few times by Jens Soltenberg and Marit Arnstad before the election.

In several counties, SVs and SPs' parliamentary candidates have used the ownership of natural resources and hydropower as a theme and among other things written many excellent newspaper posts. But as long as the case was not used by the Red Green's top elected officials on television, the case also did not become a central issue.

Polls over several years have shown that only one percent of the population agrees with Frp and the Right that hydropower plants can be sold to foreign companies. Therefore, they have gone around mice quietly on felt slippers with their plans to sell out the hydropower and remove the fallout rules, which ensure that Norwegian hydropower plants have Norwegian owners.

Minister of Petroleum and Energy Torhild Widvey first proposed that the changes be implemented in the Storting in the spring of 2005, hardly without public debate. But the massive opposition from the round of hearings on the fall back made it impossible for her to present the bill that would make electricity production in Norway open to foreign capital.

But Widvey was just waiting for a renewed mandate for the Right in the parliamentary elections. Until then, she was sitting quietly. It was only when she visited ESA in Brussels in April that she explained that the first thing she would do, if the Right retained government power after the parliamentary elections, was to write the bill that would allow the power plants to become free commodities.

The reason why ESA has taken up recourse with the Norwegian authorities is that "current rules hinder a well-functioning market for ownership in the power sector", wrote State Secretary Oluf Ulseth (H) in the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy in Aftenposten on 18 January 2005.

«So-called owner-neutral return which the authorities are planning, allows for extensive structural changes in the Norwegian energy supply. Free sales of power plants will result in fewer and larger units, with large influx of private and foreign owners. ” This was the conclusion of ECON's study "Ownership-neutral licensing rules for hydropower production” as Oil and

the Ministry of Energy commissioned in 2002, a year before the Home Fall Committee was set up. It was therefore an ordered conclusion that the management of the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy received in the majority recommendation from the Home Affairs Committee on 30 November last year.

The majority in the Repatriation Committee, which presented its recommendation on 30 November last year, was in favor of removing the legal protection against hydropower plants being sold to foreign owners. The amendment is justified by claims from the EU where ESA, the court that is to follow up the EEA agreement, believes that the fall-back scheme discriminates against private and public owners.

Today, 88 percent of the power plants in Norway are owned by municipalities, counties and the state. This means that everyone in Norway gets their share of the formidable value creation from hydropower. Of course, there is an outrage in the neoliberal universe that rages in the Right.

The government and Frp want to release foreign owners and let them buy Norwegian power plants. Then much of this value creation will disappear abroad, both for us and for future generations. The FRP is the Conservatives' ally in this case: "The FRP believes that the current restitution scheme must be repealed (..) The FRP will gradually reduce the state's ownership interests in Statkraft", it is stated in the FRP's program for the next four years.

The silence on this matter was a good Conservative strategy and probably contributed to the election result being as it was for SV, where the management did not mention the matter once on TV before the election. For Ap, the election became a triumph without this case. Sp is also happy, but this case alone could have ensured that the red-green had a clear majority, without the nerve-wracking race we had in the last days before the election. Ownership of the natural resources was the trump that was not played.

Kjell Rønningsbakk is a member of SV and editor of

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