General Motors event in Iceland

Valgerður Sverrisdóttir Minister of Industry and Commerce


Dear Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor for me to welcome you all to this meeting; I specially want to welcome Britta Gross and her delegation from General Motors. Last year I had the opportunity to visit General Motors in Detroit, and I was very impressed to see the great effort and the work the company is making to produce hydrogen cars.

It is the policy of the Government of Iceland to increase the utilization of the renewable energy resources in harmony with the environment. All electricity production in Iceland is totally carbon-free. Iceland is the only western country that produces all its electricity from renewable natural resources, and almost 90% of all heating is based on geothermal sources. In fact, 72% of the total gross energy used in the country comes from renewable energy resources, the highest share in the world. This is the result of making renewable energy a long-term priority in Iceland, and our hydrogen policy is just one part of this long-term policy.

For three decades hydrogen has been on the research agenda, and for many years it has been the policy of the Government of Iceland to increase use of renewable energy resources in harmony with the environment. Making hydrogen a priority for research and development is just one part of this long-term policy.

In 1998 the Government made a clear statement towards a Sustainable Hydrogen Economy. The long term aim is that renewable hydrogen fuel will replace the fossil fuels, as soon as it becomes economically and technically possible. This policy is a coherent part of our long-term policy on renewable energy and protection of the climate. Iceland alone is not able to take big steps in this area, but in co-operation with others, important further steps can be taken

The challenges and tasks we are facing in the area of energy, climate and technology are global in nature and therefore call for increased global solutions and co-operation. For this reason it is of great value for us to participate in global co-operation in the area of hydrogen.

Several steps have been taken towards the hydrogen economy. Iceland was one of the founding members of the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy – IPHE in Washington 2003 – which was an important step towards global hydrogen economy. Because of IPHE, hydrogen is higher on the global agenda, building a global public-private partnership is easier and important hydrogen steps have been taken.

The Government’s Policy has 5 aspects: 1) Favorable framework for business and research, 2) International co-operation, 3) Hydrogen demonstration, research and testing, 4) Outreach, education and training and 5) Ongoing policy formulation. Important element of our hydrogen policy is to create a favourable International Platform for Hydrogen Demonstration and Research in Iceland. The result of this policy can be seen in a successful program like the ECTOS program.

The ECTOS project was the first of its kind in Europe, and has been used as a model for similar projects in other European countries and around the world. In 2003, the first hydrogen buses arrived and refueling station in Iceland was opened. It was the first one in the world built at a normal gasoline station. These events were important steps towards a Sustainable Hydrogen Economy in Iceland.

Since then, additional hydrogen steps have been taken by the government. In 2005 all tariffs and taxes on hydrogen vehicles where eliminated.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Building an efficient international private-public partnership and co-operation on global level is an essential issues. Therefore it is of great value for all of us to have General Motors, one of the leading car companies in the world, at a meeting like this.

I do wish all of you a fruitful meeting, and enjoyable stay in Iceland.

Thank you.