The energy paradox: European Arctic states are among the leaders in green energy and electricity, but remote Arctic communities still rely heavily on fossil fuels. How can Arctic states achieve their Green Transformation, whilst making it economically and ecologically fair to Arctic communities?
Committee on Industry, Research, and Energy II
Chaired by Anastasia Koslova (DE). Covered by Thetis Georgiou (CY)
Executive summary
The scope of the topic surrounding renewable energies in the Arctic comes down to two main challenges: First, while Arctic states are leading in renewable energy implementation and usage, many remote communities still rely on fossil fuels and cannot easily transition to renewable energy supplies due to a lack of funds and expertise. Second, while there is a significant long-term gain in implementing clean energy projects, the traditional way of life of the Sámi people is negatively affected by those facilities, disturbing their economic practices, notably reindeer herding. Thus, many Sámi communities have expressed their dissatisfaction regarding those projects and the lack of consultation in the deployment of them. Arctic governments need to find a balance between facilitating the Green Transformation while ensuring the protection of the indigenous Sámi by creating new solutions and ideas for effective green energy implementations. Among others, it should be discussed in what areas of the Arctic can energy projects be implemented that will be least harmful to Indigenous people and what energy solutions are indeed the most optimal ones. If these questions are not addressed, Indigenous people are threatened to lose an important part of their culture and might even be forced to move to another area in order to pursue a different profession.
Listen to the audio Topic Overview
Arctic winters tend to be long and, in most places, extremely cold. Therefore, energy use in Arctic communities can be relatively high, making reliable and affordable electricity and heating a priority. Around 80% of Arctic communities rely exclusively on fossil fuels for electricity, heating and transportation.1 They often come from local sources but they can occasionally be imported by land, sea, or air which can be quite challenging and expensive, transporting fuels to remote areas through cold temperatures. Hence, there is a growing demand and desire for communities to develop clean energy projects in order to become self-sufficient and contribute to the green transformation.2

However, transitioning to green energy poses several challenges. Notably, the installation of renewable energy infrastructures, such as hydraulics and wind farms, disturbs traditional economic activities of Indigenous communities such as reindeer herding. Considering the long-term benefit of renewable energy use, the question arises how European Arctic states can create a holistic energy security strategy while keeping in mind the economic, social, and ecological implications of this transition on all members of the Arctic communities.
Key stakeholders
An intergovernmental forum for Arctic states and communities, promoting cooperation and coordination on common issues such as climate protection and sustainable development. Recently, they have created a foundation for discussions surrounding the topic of a green energy shift in the Arctic. In particular, their Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) has initiated the creation of projects that aim at facilitating the green transformation of energy in the region. Each member of our team has at least 5 years of legal experience.
Arctic Council
Directorate-General for Energy (DG-ENER)
The part of the European Commission that is responsible for the supervision of projects and programmes that promote technological development and innovation in the energy sector.3 The DG-ENER is the main actor of the European Union when it comes to supporting the Arctic’s Green Transformation. Nevertheless, since most of the region lies outside of the scope of Europe, the EU can only take a supportive role in this matter. For European Arctic states however, the EU has shared competences.
Right Energy Partnership with Indigenous Peoples (REP)
An Indigenous group of people living across several Arctic states. Reindeer herding was and is still a crucial component of the Sámi economy. The Sámi traditionally migrate with the reindeers, bringing them to a new place where they can calve. However, reindeer herders fear the transformation to a green economy because it is destroying their traditional way of life and identity, especially disrupting the practice of reindeer herding.5 For several centuries, reindeer herding has been the traditional way of life of the Sámi and an integral part of their culture. Thus, if disrupted, there is a threat for the Sámi to lose part of their identity. They protest against governments and corporations implementing new projects without their consultation and approval, taking away land that is needed for Sámi and the reindeers to live their daily life.6
The Sámi
An indigenous-led partnership, composed of multiple stakeholders, with the goal of increasing renewable energy systems that respect human rights. They seek to provide at least 50 million Indigenous peoples with access to renewable energy based on their needs. Furthermore, they also lobby for the inclusion of Indigenous people in the process of renewable energy implementations. Finally, they document and share knowledge with Indigenous communities in order to facilitate a smoother green transition.4
Established in 1998, this SDWG has the aim to propose and adopt steps to be taken by Arctic States to further advance in sustainable development in the Arctic region. They pursue initiatives that provide practical knowledge and help Arctic communities to respond to challenges as well as benefit from opportunities.
The Sámi inhabit Lapland as well as adjacent areas of Northern Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Furthermore, some Sámi also live on the Kola Peninsula of Russia.
Árnadóttir, Kristín Linda (2021). Green energy shift in the Arctic. Arctic-Council. Link
Arctic Sustainable Energy Future Toolkit. Arctic-Council. Link.
 Directorate-General for Energy. European Commission. Link.
What We Do. The Right Energy Partnership. Link.
McVeigh, Karen (2022). ‘We borrow our lands from our children’: Sámi say they are paying for Sweden going green. The Guardian. Link
McGwin, Kevin (2020). Wind energy conflicts show how Arctic renewable energy projects can founder. Link.
Fundamental Challenges
Another fundamental challenge in this topic is the deployment of green energy projects while respecting the traditional way of life and land rights of the Indigenous Sámi people. It is believed among some Sámi that to truly defend their way of life, they need to oppose all extraction projects including renewable energy ones such as wind parks and ‘green steel’ that is supposed to help meet Europe’s climate objectives. The main concern here is that those projects cause difficulties in practising reindeer herding for which you need appropriate paths for migrating reindeers from one point in place to another. “They talk about the green transition. But the reindeer, and we, are paying the price.9”, explains Mikael Kuhmunen, the president of the Sirges Sámi. When migrating, if reindeers hear or see something that scares them such as industrial territory, they immediately turn around. Additionally, the usual areas for reindeers to calve and pathways for migrating are threatened by the number of planned projects such as wind parks.10 Hence, the question arises how it would be possible to implement green energy projects while respecting and preserving the land rights of the Sámi?
The Arctic is already producing a large amount of renewable energy resources that support the region to become self-sufficient with zero-emission energy. However, many remote areas still rely on traditional energy supplies such as fossil fuels and consequently, they are challenged with the implementation of clean energy projects.7 Although knowledge sharing and the exchange of best practices has improved over the last few years, there is still a lack of expertise when it comes to developing and implementing green energy projects. Furthermore, it is also difficult to produce technologies for extracting renewable energy that are able to sustain the cold temperatures in the Arctic. This issue also relates to the cost of deploying those types of renewable energy projects that can be quite high. Another important argument for renewable energy is the energy security that comes with it, meaning that transporting diesel to remote areas, for example, can be quite risky whereas using natural resources such as wind, hydro- and solar are much more sustainable and secure.8
In the European Green Deal, the European Commission has implemented a set of proposals with the aim to prepare EU's policies such as on climate and energy ready for reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030. This deal will be financed by one third of the investments from the NextGenerationEU Recovery Plan and the EU’s seven-year budget.
Nielsen, Lise (2022). Nordic Energy Challenge 2022. Link.
 Árnadóttir, Kristín Linda (2021). Green energy shift in the Arctic. Arctic-Council. Link
McVeigh, Karen (2022). ‘We borrow our lands from our children’: Sámi say they are paying for Sweden going green. The Guardian. Link
 Orange, Richard (2022). ‘Green industry wants to take our land’: The Arctic Paradox. The Guardian. Link.
Measures in Place
Updated in 2021, the EU Arctic Policy aims to help in slowing the effects of climate change and supporting sustainable development in Arctic regions. The EU believes that a stable and sustainable Arctic is important for the entire world, thus, they hope to aid in the Arctic’s green transformation for the benefit of Arctic communities. The implementation of this policy will also help to deliver the targets defined by the European Green Deal.11

Developed by the Arctic Council in 2017 to 2019, the Arctic Sustainable Energy Futures Framework (ASEFF) and its corresponding toolkit provide Arctic communities with a starting point for implementing reliable and affordable energy solutions in the future. It was developed based on best practices of communities across the Arctic and the challenges that they faced when creating projects on clean energy. Particularly, it includes resource guides, case studies, templates, worksheets, and strategies from communities that aim at promoting a discussion on green energy among Arctic communities.12

The Arctic Council also developed the Arctic Renewable Energy Atlas (AREA)13 which provides tools such as a step-by-step guide to develop comprehensive energy plans and energy stories by Arctic communities implementing renewable energy solutions. Notably this toolkit also includes an “Energy Map” that provides an overview of the current state of green energy in the Arctic. It demonstrates the amount of different types of renewable energy such as wind and solar currently implemented in the Arctic.

Interactive Map
Energy Map on the current state of renewable energy in the Arctic

Following the initial ARENA programme from 2017, the Arctic Remote Energy Networks Academy (ARENA) II is an ongoing project that aims at bringing representatives of several Arctic states and indigenous groups together for a combination of training and mentoring on the development of remote energy networks, incorporating renewable resources and technologies. The program produced a series of webinars that was made available online for streaming and downloading.14

There has also been a significant increase in specialised policies for a green transformation in the Arctic. Canada, for example, has put special funds in place to enhance the energy shift in remote areas. One of the Arctic Energy Fund’s projects is the deployment of four modern wind turbines in a Northern Canadian town called Whitehorse, Yukon, which will generate enough electricity to power up to 650 homes in this remote community.15
In 2018, Canada budgeted a total of 400 millions dollars (40 million each year over the scope of 10 years) that will help address the energy security challenges in the Arctic. It will help communities to implement sustainable and long-term green energy projects.
 Strategic Communications (2021). The EU in the Arctic. EEAS. Link 
Arctic Sustainable Energy Future Toolkit. Arctic-Council. Link.
Welcome to AREA. Arctic Renewable Energy Atlas. Link
 Arctic Remote Energy Networks Academy (ARENA) II. SDWG. Link.
 New funding partnership adding wind-energy to the grid of Yukon. Government of Canada. Link.
Technical aspects
  • Can be well produced in the Arctic, especially in coastal areas.

  • Technology for wind turbines needs to be adapted to withstand the cold temperatures in the Arctic.

  • When adapted, the cold climate has a positive effect since wind turbines in cold regions have a 20% increase in maximum power output at around -37℃.

  • Lifetime of a wind turbine: around 20 years, can be even longer if operation and maintenance costs are at an acceptable level
  • Accounting for 40% of electricity generation in the Arctic

  • The energy source with the highest generation after diesel

  • Generated by hydropower plants that are mostly found in larger Arctic communities than remote ones

  • Only a few existing hydropower plants overall in the Arctic because they are expensive to implement

  • Lifetime: around 50-100 years

  • Low operating costs.
  • Several photovoltaic (PV) solar systems installed in the Arctic, mainly on a small scale for residential or small business use.

  • The production of solar power is seasonal, according to the availability of sunlight.

  • The snow in Spring increases the electricity output of the solar cells due to the snow reflecting solar radiation.

  • Lifetime of solar cells is around 25 years

  • Environmental impact of installing solar panels is very low since they usually require no land use
  • Gravitational forces of the sun and moon lead to tidal currents that produce tidal energy which can be used as renewable energy sources

  • Particularly concentrated in narrow bodies of water such as around islands

  • Not influenced by the weather but only by the constellations of the sun and moon, resulting in reliable prediction of energy extraction

  • Tidal power is not mature yet in Arctic regions due to expected risk of ice and icebergs, making energy production unreliable.
  • The heat produced deep in the Earth’s Core and extracted by humans for electricity use

  • Integrated geothermal heat and power systems provide a stable and reliable energy resource

  • Lifetime can be up to several decades

  • Relatively high installation capital costs

  • Low operational costs

  • In the Arctic, it is primarily distributed around the Russian and Alaskan coastal areas in the Pacific as well as on Iceland.
Types of Renewable Energy
While there is a general consensus about the benefits of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy, this Transformation is not an easy task, especially for remote Arctic regions. Funds and knowledge are required to enable the implementation of clean energy projects in Arctic communities, aligning the transition to renewable energies with the global Sustainable Development Goals while making them self-sufficient in the energy supply. However, it is important to emphasise that the Sámi people need to be part of the discussion on how to facilitate the Green Transformation and what energy solutions are the least harmful. While the long-term benefit of renewable energies is undeniable, the way of life of Indigenous people is directly impacted by the building of such facilities and infrastructure. Hence, it is needed to build a strategy that balances all needs, finding the most optimal solution for the Green Transition in the Arctic.
Food for Thought
  • How can the EU support the Arctic in implementing green energy projects in remote communities?

  • In what ways can we accelerate the Green Transformation while protecting the land rights and traditional way of life of Indigenous people?

  • Is it possible to transfer green energy to remote areas rather than building new power plants?

  • Is there land space in the Arctic to build facilities for green energy that do not affect the Sámi?

  • How can Arctic governments ensure that communities receive the necessary funds and knowledge to implement sustainable energy solutions?
Among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the UN, there are two main goals relevant to this topic: the goal to ensure access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy for all (Goal 7) and the goal to make communities and human settlements safe, resilient and sustainable (Goal 11).
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Motion for a resolution
Submitted by:
Joseph Blank (SE), Matteo Canarutto Gatti (IT), Eylül Eren (TR), Asja Ivanisevic (RS), Clara Franziska Kogel (DE), Larisa Roxana Lohan (RO), Kik Maassen (NL), Hovhannes Margaryan (AM), Andrea Miltiadous (CY), Ted Qamo (AL), Vladislav Țerna (MO), Henrik Tuastad (NO), Yuliia Vatseba (UA), Anastasia Koslova (Chairperson, DE)
The European Youth Parliament aims to reduce the dependency of remote Arctic communities on fossil fuels by diversifying energy production methods. Furthermore, considering the influence of current renewable energy facilities on Indigenous People in the Arctic, it wishes to achieve a fair energy transformation while including local communities in decision-making processes. Finally, by investing in research and exchanging knowledge and expertise, it hopes to ensure a fair transition to a sustainable and green future for the Arctic while respecting the rights of Indigenous communities,

A. Concerned that 80% of Arctic communities still heavily rely on fossil fuels for electricity, heating and transportation,

B. Deeply disturbed by the consequences of climate change on the Arctic, heating up four times faster than other parts of the world, partly due to carbon dioxide emission by fossil fuels,

C. Taking into consideration that green transformation is a gradual process,

D. Noting with concern that renewable energy projects do not consider the human rights, equality, and cultural values of Indigenous communities, notably through the example of the wind turbines in Fosen, Norway, disrupting reindeer herding,

E. Seriously concerned by the investment disparity between fossil fuels and renewable energy technologies,

F. Considering the disparity of investment between new and promising types of sustainable energy and established renewable technologies such as wind and solar,

G. Noting with regret the exclusion of Indigenous Arctic communities from decision-making processes,

H. Fully alarmed by the clear violation to the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) stated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples due to the exclusion of Indigenous People from decision-making processes,

I. Acknowledging that intermittency1 increases the cost of energy security and creates instability in the energy market,

J. Noting with concern the insufficient progress of sharing expertise regarding the development and implementation of clean energy in the Arctic,

K. Noting with concern the insufficient framework regarding the implementation of the EU Arctic strategy, specifically in the energy sector where further clarifications are required,

L. Conscious of the Arctic’s cold climate and intense weather events that hinder the development of green energy sources including hydroelectric and solar power;

1. Calls upon the European Commission to further specify the manner of implementation and application of renewable energy technologies by considering an extension of the EU Arctic policy;

2. Invites Arctic States to reduce the problem of intermittency and optimise energy consumption by following the Longyearbyen Model2;

3. Urges the Norwegian Government to adhere to the decision of the Norwegian Supreme Court regarding the right of the Sámi to practise reindeer herding by removing the wind turbines in Fosen, Norway;

4. Recommends Arctic States in collaboration with the Right Energy Partnership with Indigenous People and Sustainable Development Working Group to support renewable energy projects in remote Arctic communities by:
a. including local community members in the management of energy projects such as decisions on repairs, expansion, and division of resources,
b. conducting impact assessment reports in cooperation with the International Association for Impact Assessment on all proposed sites for renewable energy projects, taking into account all affected parties,
c. ensuring that all supported renewable energy projects are not violating human rights and cultural activities;

5. Asks Arctic States to build or upgrade sustainable energy infrastructures following the Arctic Investment Protocol on unrestorable land by:
a. restoring outdated energy facilities which are detrimental to the ecosystem,
b. upgrading existing windmills to their maximum efficiency in line with the recommendations of several studies,
c. removing the windmills and dams disrupting reindeer herding;

6. Encourages Arctic States to diversify their energy production by further implementing:
a. community shared solar power grids equipped with optimising technology such as the cold weather package while operating on a micro-grid level,
b. coastal wind farms for efficiency and lowest impact on local communities using wind turbine technology that ensures stability against the risks of melting permafrost,
c. research on producing energy from future geothermal plants that function as a potential long term solution;

7. Strongly encourages Arctic States to promote the involvement of local communities regarding the implementation of renewable energies by utilising their expertise through programmes such as the Arctic Clean Energy Innovation Prize or the Nordic Energy Challenge;

8. Calls upon the Directorate General Energy (DG-ENER) to allocate funds on projects and programmes through REPowerEU that minimise maintenance costs and ecological impact of renewable energy sources such as the cold weather package in wind turbines and angular adjustment in solar photovoltaic panels;

9. Directs the DG ENER to minimise the effect of intermittency in energy production by allocating funds to projects researching physical and chemical batteries that involve ions such as hydrogen and ammonium;

10. Further directs the DG-ENER to prepare for future waste management by allocating funds to the management of cadmium from decommissioned solar panels as well as the recycling of decommissioned wind turbines;

11. Instructs the DG-ENER to further invest into the development of existing technologies such as black wind turbine blades and the research for alternative minerals for solar energy production;

12. Further instructs the DG-ENER to invest into research projects aiming at promoting innovation in drilling technology for geothermal wells, investigating the prevention of seismic activity caused by geothermal drilling and further exploring possibilities of long distance energy transportation using superconductors;

13. Congratulates Arctic States for their cooperation in exchanging developments and innovations in the renewable energy sector, encouraging the continuation of practices such as the Arctic Sustainable Energy Futures Framework.

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Intermittency is a measure for the reliability and consistency of an energy source producing energy throughout the year. In the Arctic, this term usually refers to solar energy, producing more energy in the summer, and wind energy, producing more energy in the winter.
The Longyearbyen Model is a study case whose aim is to provide energy services at the lowest cost possible. In particular, they inve- stigated the effect of combining energy production of wind and solar throughout a year while storing some of the energy in ammonium batteries, showing great promise for this method.
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