Image from Reykjavik Grapevine
Until recently Bjork was the most famous thing about Iceland, then came the collapse of the banking system and the volcanic eruptions. TreeHuggers know another environmental factoid about the country: it is the only one in the world to run on its own geothermal energy. Its plants provide all of the electricity, heat and hot water for the entire nation.
Now all these elements are coming together in a national controversy over who should own the public resources of the spunky little country. At the forefront of the fight is Bjork, who has a record of being a high-profile environmentalist (and a singer who makes swan-like fashion statements).
The Hitaveita Suðurnesja Power Plant
With the fall of the Icelandic banks in 2008 came a loan from the International Monetary Fund and a push by the government to reduce spending. In came the international geothermal companies seeking to buy up the rights to Iceland's geothermal energy facilities.
HS Orka is the largest privately owned energy company, owned for the most part by municipalities in the region. It was privatized by the former government and is the third largest power plant in the country, producing 9% of the country's power needs.
Canadian, Vancouver-based Magma Energy is a geothermal power company that operates, develops, explores and acquires geothermal energy projects in Canada, the USA and Latin America. They have now bought 98.53 percent of HS Orka. This is a particularly good deal for them since the Icelandic government has agreed to loan them the money with no interest paid for the first seven years. Magma will have access to exploit these geothermal rights for the next 130 years.
Bjork's, and many other concerned citizens' concern is that this effectively puts Iceland's third largest power company in the hands of a foreign company, with very few returns remaining in the country.
Image from smh.com: downtown Reykjavik
Bjork has formally asked the government a series of questions regarding the purchase. She wants a "transparent, open discussion and reconsideration" of the "selling of access to our natural resources." She wonders if perhaps the country wouldn't be in a better position to pay off its debts by keeping control of its own resources and keeping the profits rather than selling them off.
The centre-left government has approved the deal, despite the concerns of some party members. Magma claims that foreign investment in the country is crucial.
This whole debate will be very familiar to Canadians who have been experiencing similar national sell-offs of natural resources for years. Unfortunately we didn't have Bjork on our side.
She says that "I'm hoping the nation and its government will decide to cancel this deal. Then I can, hopefully, go back to writing music,"