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National Power Company says NO to smelters

The best news of last week in my opinion was a decision by the National Power Company to refuse all negotiations with companies planning to build new aluminium smelters in the south and west of Iceland. Instead, the company will focus on providing energy to firms with more diverse operations, such as high tech companies seeking to establish server farms in Iceland [Google, among others, has been looking into Iceland as an option].

I can’t tell you how relieved I am. The construction of new smelters here on the southwest corner has been under discussion for some time, and gained momentum after the people of Hafnarfjörður narrowly voted down the enlargement of the Alcan plant in their town last spring. In other words, when that was voted down, Alcan’s plan B was to build a new smelter, just a little further away.

When the harsh debate over the Kárahnjúkavirkjun dam in east Iceland [the one built to fuel a new Alcoa plant in Reyðarfjörður] was at its height, conservationists argued vehemently against the government’s short-sightedness in matters of industry – their belief that building aluminium plants for evil multinational corporations was the only way to save the Icelandic economy [which in normal discourse actually meant ‘maintaining the high standard of living’]. Thinking outside the box – that other forms of industry might be conceivable and preferable – seemed incomprehensible to the bureaucrats holding the reins of, er, power.

When a new coalition government was formed last spring, many people [including YT] were hopeful that a new direction might be taken, although I must say that I dared not hope too much. Happily, with a new socialist Minister of Industry at the helm, things actually seem to be taking a turn for the better. Huzzah!

Now all we need to figure out is how to man the new high-tech jobs that hopefully will be created. According to today’s Fréttablaðið there is a decided lack of manpower to work in IT in Iceland – and, indeed, in any sector. So all you nerds out there – take note. In exchange for your services we offer you clean and unpolluted working conditions, free from aluminium smelter smog.

It’s overcast with just the hint of a breeze here in the capital. More wind in the east, I’m told. Temps right now 4°C [39F], the sun came up at 9.48 and will set at 4.34 pm. Short days!