Building Relationships in the New North
Lessons shared between small remote Arctic populations
Anchorage, Alaska—Alaska business, policy and community leaders, along with energy experts and utility operators spent five days exploring Iceland’s energy technology and policy as well as the corresponding economic and infrastructure development. The group explored new ways to build mutually beneficial relationships between the two jurisdictions.
"The overall goal of our trip was to form relationships with people in Iceland. These two regions have much in common—large territory, low population density and strategic location, to name just a few,” commented Hugh Short, Chairman of the Board for the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, and the Alaska Energy Authority. “Hence we face a variety of similar challenges. Hopefully this visit will be a first step in a long and successful cooperation between Iceland and Alaska.”
As Alaskans face key decisions for a strong future, now is the time to build on international cooperation and better understand best practices and policy. Not only did the Alaska leaders learn about policy and development in Iceland, the group was able to share its experience with the Icelanders they met along the way. While there are many similarities and things to learn from each other, participants recognize that there is no “right” way. Studying and sharing can potentially benefit both regions, however.
Various key points that were discussed during the policy tour include:
- Iceland completed their Arctic policy in 2011. As the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission begins their work this winter, the efforts of other Arctic jurisdictions will be informative.
- The financial crisis of 2008 reminded Iceland of a key economic principle—spend less than you earn. While a simple concept, it resonated with the Alaskans who participated in the tour.
- Iceland generates substantially more electricity per capita than other European nations, the vast majority of which is renewable. The Icelandic energy sector has several other special features—no gas production, infrastructure or market; no cross border connections; no coal production; no crude oil imports or oil refineries; no nuclear power plants or research reactors—that differentiate it from the energy sector in Alaska.
- Efficient energy policy requires a good regulatory framework and must take environmental concerns seriously. The Master Plan for Geothermal and Hydropower Development in Iceland (currently in development) weighs aspects of a project’s development and has a ranking system that helps decide whether to energize, wait for more information or preserve the area.
- Positive economic impacts, i.e. social impacts from construction, are a prerequisite for further construction activities. The profitability of investments brings permanent economic growth, not the investment itself. For example, in 2010 the per capita Icelandic benefit from geothermal was 1,600-2,400 USD.
- Iceland is actively developing clusters that promote economic development by improving the competitiveness of specific business sectors. In Iceland there is an emphasis on building knowledge and expertise within the country.
- Though energy intensive industry has recently become a major part of the economy, Icelanders recognize the importance of diversification in small and open economies. Investment is increasing in other industries, particularly ones that are not reliant on physical limitations.
- The Icelanders are deliberating the ownership of resources. A proposal exists for a new constitution that allocates to the nation all resources that not already privately owned—similar to the way the Alaskan Constitution was written.
“A bridge has been built between Alaska and Iceland that will only get stronger in the years to come. That bridge rests on a common vision of prosperity for peoples of the North and a strategy for workingtogether to respond to opportunity,” highlights Nils Andreassen, executive director of the Institute of the North.
Representatives from the technical and policy tour will share their insights at the Report to Alaskans hosted by REAP on Wednesday, December 12 at 6:00pm at the Anchorage Museum. A final report will also be available soon on the Institute of the North’s website (www.institutenorth.org)–stay in the loop via Facebook (www.facebook.com/
InstituteNorth) and Twitter (@IONorth).
About the Institute of the North
The Institute of the North’s mission is to inform public policy and cultivate an engaged citizenry consistent with our focus on the North and our belief that commonly-owned resources should be developed and managed for individual and community prosperity. The Institute of the North is both forward-thinking and global in its approach to the challenges and opportunities stemming from Alaska’s strategic location. The Institute of the North develops initiatives that cross sectors and the circumpolar North to empower northern peoples by increasing knowledge of northern issues, at a local, national and global level and strengthening Alaskans’ voices in northern decision‐making.