How Much Hydropower Does Norway Have?

How much hydropower does Norway have?

Norway is a Scandinavian country located in Northern Europe with a landscape dominated by mountains, fjords and thousands of islands along its extensive coastline. Despite its northerly location, Norway has a mild climate due to the warming influence of the Gulf Stream. The mountainous terrain and abundant precipitation provide ideal conditions for hydropower generation. Norway has a long history of utilizing its vast hydropower resources and today derives over 95% of its electricity from hydropower plants, making it Europe’s largest producer of hydroelectricity.

Norway’s Geography

Norway’s mountainous terrain and abundant rivers provide ideal conditions for hydropower generation. The country possesses a rugged geography characterized by the Scandinavian Mountains running through mainland Norway as well as steep fjords cutting into the landscape along the coast. This mountainous topography combined with Norway’s location at northerly latitudes contributes to significant precipitation and snowfall, which feeds the nation’s numerous glaciers and rivers (Norway’s Geography behind its Hydropower Potential, n.d.).

The mountain ridges and valleys direct precipitation into rivers and streams that flow down from elevated plateaus. Norway has over 400 hydropower plants thanks to this favorable geography and the abundance of swiftly flowing rivers that can provide kinetic energy via hydropower dams. Major river systems utilized for hydropower include the Glomma, Drammenselva, Lagen, Numedalslågen, and Altaelva among others. Overall, Norway possesses ideal natural conditions and renewable resources to sustain its massive hydropower infrastructure (The Geography of Norway, n.d.).

History of Hydropower in Norway

Norway has a long history of harnessing hydropower that dates back to the late 19th century. The country’s ample water resources and mountainous terrain provided ideal conditions for early hydropower development. Some key events and milestones include:

The first hydropower plant was commissioned in Oslo in 1872, supplying electricity to a pulp mill. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, several more small hydropower plants were built to power industrial facilities and provide electricity to towns and cities.

In the early 1900s, larger hydropower projects began construction to meet the country’s growing electricity demands. Major projects included the Svelgfoss plant completed in 1917 and the Vamma plant in 1913, among others. State-owned companies took a leading role in hydropower development during this period.

Norway continued expanding its hydropower capacity in the postwar period to support industrialization and electrification. Some of the country’s largest hydropower plants date from the 1950s-1970s, including Tokke, Røssåga, and Aura.

Overall, the long history of hydropower development reflects Norway’s strategic use of its natural resources. Hydropower helped build major industries and provide universal electricity access across the country. Early investments laid the foundation for Norway’s leading hydropower sector today.

Source: Is local always best? Social acceptance of small …

Current Hydropower Capacity

Norway has an installed hydropower capacity of over 31 GW as of 2022, according to Statistics Norway ( This accounts for over 88% of the country’s total electricity generation capacity.

Hydropower supplies the vast majority of Norway’s electricity needs. In 2021, hydropower accounted for 94% of domestic electricity production at 140 TWh, with the remaining 6% coming from wind power, thermal power and other sources (

Norway has over 1,200 hydropower reservoirs with a total storage capacity of around 87 TWh. The 30 largest reservoirs account for about half of the country’s hydropower storage capacity.

Major Hydropower Plants

Norway’s largest hydropower plants in terms of installed capacity are:

  • Kvilldal Power Plant – 1,240 MW installed capacity, located in Suldal Municipality in Rogaland County and owned by Statkraft
  • Tonstad Power Plant – 1,000 MW installed capacity, located in Sirdal Municipality in Vest-Agder County and owned by Statkraft
  • Sima Power Plant – 1,000 MW installed capacity, located in the municipality of Eidfjord in Vestland County and owned by Statkraft
  • Aurland I Power Plant – 920 MW installed capacity, located in Aurland Municipality in Vestland County and owned by Statkraft
  • Svartisen Power Plant – 860 MW installed capacity, located in Meløy Municipality in Nordland County and owned by Statkraft

Other major plants include the Mongstad Power Station (680 MW) located in Alver Municipality and owned by Equinor, and the Rana Power Station (443 MW) located in Rana Municipality and owned by Statkraft.

The largest hydropower plants are concentrated in western and central Norway, where there is abundant hydroelectric potential from steep rivers and high rainfall.

Hydropower Technology

Norway is a leader in hydropower technology and engineering. The country has developed highly advanced turbines and dams to harness its abundant water resources. The main types of dams used in Norway are embankment dams and concrete dams. Embankment dams are earth and rock-fill dams that are well-suited for Norway’s rugged valleys. Concrete dams like gravity, arch, and buttress dams are also commonly used for their strength and durability [1].

The most widely used turbine in Norway is the Francis turbine. Francis turbines are reaction turbines that operate under medium head ranges, making them ideal for Norway’s topography. Other common turbines include Pelton for high heads and Kaplan for low heads. Norwegian turbine manufacturers like Voith Hydro and GE Hydro have engineered turbines that maximize efficiency and allow flexibility in operations [2].

Environmental Impacts

The development of hydropower in Norway has had various environmental impacts, particularly on landscapes, ecosystems, and fish populations. According to a 2021 study, hydropower development in Norway has resulted in “Hydropower‐driven thermal changes, biological responses and local extinctions” (citation). The construction of dams and reservoirs has led to large-scale landscape changes, as valleys are flooded and rivers are diverted. For example, the reservoir for the Aurland hydropower plant flooded parts of the Aurlandsdalen valley and modified the flow regimes of rivers (citation).

These landscape changes have disrupted ecosystems and led to habitat loss for many species. The flooding of land areas destroys terrestrial habitats, while the creation of reservoirs leads to fluctuations in water levels that impact littoral zones. Reduced river flows below dams limit habitats for aquatic organisms. Fish populations can be impacted through blocked migration routes, habitat loss, and changes in flow and temperature regimes. For instance, Atlantic salmon populations in many Norwegian rivers have declined following hydropower development, which has disrupted their ability to migrate and reproduce (citation). Overall, hydropower development has substantially altered Norway’s natural landscapes and river ecosystems.

Economic Benefits of Hydropower in Norway

Hydropower provides significant economic benefits for Norway in terms of revenue, exports, and jobs. According to an OECD report, hydropower accounts for nearly 20% of Norway’s total value creation and generates over $3 billion annually in direct revenue. The industry also contributes substantially to Norway’s trade surplus through electricity exports. In 2020, Norway exported over 23 TWh of power to neighboring countries, bringing in export revenues of nearly $2.5 billion.

Hydropower also provides employment opportunities, especially in rural areas near power plants. Estimates indicate the sector employs around 20,000 people directly and over 100,000 indirectly. With plans to develop more capacity, the industry is poised to remain an important part of Norway’s economy by creating jobs and supporting economic development for years to come.

Future Expansion Plans

Norway has ambitious plans to further expand its hydropower capacity in the coming years and decades. The Norwegian government has set a target of increasing the country’s hydropower production by 10 TWh by 2030 and by 15 TWh by 2040 compared to 2019 levels (World Bank, 2023). This would represent around a 10-15% increase from current capacity.

Several major hydropower projects are in various stages of planning and development to help meet these targets. One of the largest is the Øyfjellet Wind Power Project, which will add a capacity of 400 MW. The project is expected to be completed by 2025. Other major proposed projects include Håstein Kraftverk, Ytre Leirfossene, and Åbjøravassdraget, which combined could add over 1,000 MW of new capacity (ICIMOD, 2016).

However, some of these planned projects face opposition from environmental groups concerned about impacts on landscapes, wildlife, and natural habitats. The Norwegian government will need to balance hydropower expansion plans with environmental protections as it aims to meet its future renewable energy goals (CoE, 2023).


Norway has an enormous amount of hydropower resources thanks to its mountainous geography and abundant rainfall. Currently, hydropower accounts for over 95% of Norway’s electricity production with an installed capacity of over 30,000 MW. Major plants like Aurland I and Rana utilize the latest hydropower technology to generate clean and renewable energy for the country.

While hydropower development has altered Norway’s natural environment in some areas, it has also brought substantial economic benefits and enabled the country to export electricity to neighboring countries. Norway plans to expand its hydropower capacity further in the coming years through projects like Rosten and Nedre Otta. Overall, Norway is likely to continue relying on its vast hydropower resources to meet domestic electricity demand and maintain its role as a major renewable energy exporter.

Similar Posts