Workshop on Biotechnology and Energy. Conference in Reykjavik June 9, 2004.

A conference held on behalf of the Embassy of Germany and the Icelandic Byotechnology Firm Procaria in Reykjavik, June 9, 2004.


Ambassador of Germany, distingushed guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a pleasure for me to be here today and opening this workshop on Biotechnology and energy.

The challenges and tasks we are facing are global in nature and call for concerted action from governments and companies. Energy and biotechnology are both highly important topics in the global context so the topic of this conference is highly important.

In 2002, electricity production in Iceland was the highest per capita in the world.

Iceland is the only western country, which produces all its electricity from renewable natural resources – in a totally carbon-free way. In fact, 72% of the total primary energy used in the country comes from renewable energy resources, which is most likely the highest ratio in the world. This success is the result of a national consensus on harnessing our abundant renewable energy resources in harmony with the environment. Focusing now on hydrogen to proceed even further towards a renewable carbon-free energy supply - is just one part of this long-term policy.

As early as 1998 the Government of Iceland made a clear statement of its intention to progress towards a sustainable hydrogen economy. This commitment is also to bee found in the statement given by the current government when it took office last year and is a coherent part of our long-term policies on renewable energy and protection of the climate.

Our vision is to have renewable energy, in the form of hydrogen, replace the fossil fuels used in our transport sector and to power our fishing fleet. If this vision is to be realized, hydrogen has to become technically and economically viable, so that we can enjoy the environmental and economic benefits it can offer. For Iceland hydrogen, as an energy carrier, is an especially promising option, as the country has abundant renewable energy resources to produce hydrogen.

In April this year, the first hydrogen refueling station was opened in Iceland. It is unique in the sense that it both produces and dispenses hydrogen - at a conventional gasoline station. The event was an important step towards a sustainable hydrogen economy in Iceland. Opening the station was part of an international co-operation project between the Icelandic group EcoEnergy and its foreign partners, DaimlerChrysler, Shell, Norsk Hydro and the European Union. Three hydrogen buses are now in operation in Reykjavik as a part of this project.

The government of Iceland has also put great emphasis on biotechnology so the theme of this workshop today is very suitable in Iceland. In order to become a fully sustainable society it is very important to go towards developing biological solutions to many problems of today. The prosects of using Iceland´s renewable energy resources, and in particular via hydrogen, to fuel biotechnical processes is therefore very appealing. The prospects of being able to produce as diverse products as plastics and animal feed from electricity and carbon dioxide, both generated from Iceland´s geothermal fields, is not only sustainable but helps reduce the burden of greenhouse gases

A major element of our hydrogen policy is to propose Iceland as an international platform for hydrogen research and testing. The filling station and the hydrogen busses in the city of Reykjavik are examples of this type, and your idea of using hydrogen in biotechnology is another example. While Iceland alone is not capable of making major advances in this area, in co-operation with others further steps can be taken. Our contribution would be to offer the country as a suitable base for hydrogen demonstration projects and a technical testing ground. We believe Iceland is particularly suited for this as it is a developed and homogeneous society, which is very adaptable to new challenges, not least in the field of technology.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Developing and putting hydrogen technology into practice is only one of many opportunities in our dynamic and changing world today. Your efforts towards widening the applications of hydrogen in biotechnology and the fighting against carbon dioxide accumulation is challencing, but we must have vision, strength and use co-operation to be able to take advantage of those opportunities.

I hope you all have a successful conference today and good cooperation in the future.