with Tom Tvedt, Chairman of the County Council, Rogaland County Council
The mission of Rogaland County Council is to be responsible for the county policies in several fields, but also encourages and facilitates economic development. As an introduction to our readers, could you tell us more about Rogaland County Council and its role both in the county and in Norway?
The county consists of 26 municipalities and represents approximately 9% of the population of Norway. The council is responsible for regional policy and development, with special focus on transportation – being responsible for 90% of the roads in the area- and education –especially university and technical schools – more than 16,000 students under its jurisdiction. About 50% of our budget goes into education, and Technical schools are becoming more and more important in such an area where the oil industry is a driving force. That is where students learn how to drill for example. Obviously both Stavanger and Bergen are working towards attracting students. Rogaland County is also focused on taking care of elders who have not been educated and want to work in the oil industry. From 2010 we will be responsible for business development, regional development, attracting new investment, and fostering new innovation.
Talking about 2010, Rogaland County Council will launch a new business development strategy to support regional development. Could you tell us more about it, and about the new strategy of Rogaland County Council that will appear from November onwards?
We still have to define who will be doing what and which way we want to go. The oil and gas industry will be an important part of this program. The energy in Norway is one of the cleanest, but this does not mean we can rest on our laurels: this cannot stop, we must do it better. We have a responsibility for all the people in the region and this is reflected in how we produce, and how we use energy. Gas, Oil and wind energy are all accessible sources of energy in Norway. We have started to look towards installing wind turbines offshore because it is important to have a balance and work with both renewable energies and fossil fuels. Rogaland not only has oil, gas and wind, but also waterfalls. We will use more of these alternative sources of energy in the future. It will be increasingly important to use them since the young generation is much more “Green oriented” than its elders. In order to attract young people and educate them, and to facilitate technological innovation hence maximizing our ability to produce energy, we must adapt to their needs.
It is also natural for oil companies to operate a shift to offshore wind turbines. They are a natural step for companies specializing in offshore oil. With wind turbines they can use concrete and set them on the sea ground. We are looking how we can use our offshore oil technology to advance the wind industry.
How does the Rogaland County Council influence the energy mix and what will be the evolutions in its balancing in the future?
For starters we have to do something with the younger generation. We have 16,000 students and this brings new knowledge for the future. We have to take care of what we have today while we start working towards tomorrow.
We also have to look at the national level. If we’re going to change, then the country must be willing to go for that. We must be positive towards Oil & Gas as the backbone of the country. However if we talk too much about “green energy”, younger generation will want to go into it, and we have to use all energy in all forms. We are working on several projects to make the Oil & Gas energy greener, working for example with Sweden for green certificates.
When looking to the energy mix, we don’t want to be just “green”, we want to combine traditional fossil fuels with modern, clean energy, but to do this it has to be easier to do business here. How can we make business easier? By adopting one strategy and improving on it every day.
We have met with several entities: the city of Stavanger, Greater Stavanger Economic Development, IRIS etc. Among all these bodies, what is the role of the Rogaland County Council in making business easier and improving the strategy?
We are all on the same team. We are focused on the country as a whole, and this will be reflected once our new strategy kicks off in November. We have and will always work as a team towards one coherent strategy. From January 2010, 49% of the ownership of Innovation Norway will go to the counties, which will lead to more business development initiatives. We have to build up several industries in the county. We are partners.
The Mayor of Bergen, Mr. Bakke, was highlighting this same idea of being a team. Do you think it would be not only possible, but beneficial for Stavanger and Bergen to work together?
We are essentially working for the same thing. The Rogaland region invested up North in Mongstad for example. We are also starting a road project to rally Stavanger – Haugesund through tunnels. Eventually Bergen will be able to build the other part of the tunnel, hence making access between the two cities much more efficient.
What is the strategy of Rogaland County Council at the international level?
We want to play together which is why Rogaland County Council plays a role in all the organization that count in the region. We own the i-park, are funding Greater Stavanger Economic Development and we coordinate everything towards Brussels (regional).
I was in Russia yesterday, with whom we have an agreement for oil & gas and education and are discussing further developments in these domains. It is strategically important to build trust and a good climate of cooperation with industry and government agencies in this region. The outcome of my discussion with the governor of the Nenets Republic (Russia) is an agreement of cooperation in the oil and gas industry, service companies and maritime transport in general. We will also share knowledge on environmental issues, waste management, research and water pollution. We must use every contact to go on into the future. But we will have more discussion starting in October, when planning the new strategy, with a strong focus on the “team”.
It is interesting to see cooperation with such a far region; why is Rogaland attractive for foreigner, but also for Norwegian companies?
We offer interesting technologies which are at the forefront of innovation worldwide. New ideas are going to transform the oil industry. This region is a “small, but big world” surrounded by an international community. We attract some of the most highly educated persons, and have a very low unemployment rate. There have been different theories as to how we can keep the youth of today in the area while attracting from abroad. One idea was that all children born here should be given land for a house. Still, 23-24% were leaving, but new people are always coming in. We still have a strong culture, but we’re transforming. New people bring new ideas. We are the fastest growing region besides Oslo.
What is your final message to Oil & Gas Financial Journal Readers?
The future is the children. We will focus on opportunities for change and work together to stop climate change. There are big changes to come. We spent 6 billion NOK on carbon capture. But it depends on price and how much people are willing to pay for it. The trick is to be able to use clean energy while saving money. We look to China who is, every day, building a new energy center and we see that we have the technologies and we have to be responsible.