Tag Archives: Longyearbyen Community Council

LONGYEARBYEN TO SHUT COAL POWER PLANT IN 2023: Council unanimously OKs plan to temporarily switch to diesel, implement all-renewable energy supply by 2030

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Wow, that happened fast.

Shutting down Longyearbyen’s coal power plant in 2023 was unanimously approved at the most recent meeting of the municipal council, drastically accelerating a timeline that just a few years ago envisioned operating the plant for much of its remaining lifespan (possibly into the next decade). That shrunk last year to a gradual phaseout within five years and local leaders hastened plans again in February with the proposal to shut the plant in two years.

The council approved switching to diesel temporarily when the coal plant closes, and implementing an all-renewable energy supply by 2030 – a plan many residents are questioning the economic, logistical and environmental wisdom of.

MINE 7 CLOSING IN 2023: Shutdown of last Norwegian coal mine accelerated again as Longyearbyen will switch to diesel for power; production to increase for final two years

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Photo courtesy of Store Norske

The last Norwegian coal mine will cease operations in 2023 – five years sooner than an already accelerated plan envisioned just months ago – as Longyearbyen’s Community Council voted this week to shut down the town’s coal-fired power plant and temporarily switch to diesel until a permanent alternative source is determined.

As a result, Store Norske said it cannot operate Mine 7 profitably without supplying the power plant, although it will boost the mine’s production by about 30 percent until the shutdown to take advantage of current high coal prices in Europe. The shutdown will result in the loss of about 55 man-years of labor.

ANY VOTES IN FAVOR OF NOT VOTING? Everyone seems to hate a proposal preventing foreign residents from participating in Longyearbyen’s elections; here’s a few who support it

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You know those elections where the leader of Turkmenistan, North Korea, etc. wins with 99 percent of the vote – and ever wonder who the “one-percenters” are?

A similarly lopsided tally is surfacing on social media in response to a proposal to essentially ban foreigners from local elections in Longyearbyen – but a few souls are speaking out in favor of the surprising suggestion made by Norway’s government this week.

Briefs from Svalbardposten for the week of Feb. 2, 2021

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Svea loans 18-ton power supply to Svalbard Airport to cope with electrical system failure (above photo of power supply being unloaded in Longyearbyen courtesy of Avinor), 41 applications seek a share of 25 million kroner in emergency COVID-19 tourism aid and the city applies for funding for a pilot project to see if Longyearbyen’s electric cars can contribute to the town’s power grid.

HOW TO GET YOUR SHARE OF 25 MILLION: Guidelines for emergency funds for Svalbard tourism businesses hurt by COVID-19 pandemic released; deadline is Jan. 22

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Photo by Jarle Røssland via Visit Svalbard

Guidelines and a deadline for 25 million kroner in grants to help tourism-related businesses in Svalbard hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic were announced Monday by Norway’s government, although the application itself is still pending.

Short summary: Just about any existing or new business/offering either individually or jointly that benefits tourism likely meet the guidelines as long funds aren’t used for “fixed costs or for a decline in income,” but there’s numerous eligibility requirements related to being Svalbard-based and meeting accounting/wage standards. However, exemptions to the requirements are possible for proposals “that obviously support the scheme’s purpose.”

The application deadline is Jan. 22, 2021.

SMALL FOLKS BIGGEST ‘WINNERS’ OF SMALL CULTURE FUNDS: Svalbard Turn gets more than recommended as others see cuts due to big COVID-19 hit to available annual Korkpenger funds

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(Editor’s note: Because Icepeople applied for a grant – and saw a huge reduction from amounts awarded in past years – the story below relies on quotes/explanations published today by Svalbardposten in order to maintain neutrality.)

During a year when most applicants for Korkpenger grants from the city got less than they asked for – and the city itself withdrew five of its applications so as not to “compete” – Svalbard Turn emerged as the one big winner as it received an extra 55,000 kroner in addition to the 500,000 recommended in a preliminary report for its variety of recreational programs.

CATCHING UP ON COVID-19: Local leaders answer questions about resident/visitor travel, what happens if an outbreak occurs and more during webcast (includes full Q&A)

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Local political and heath officials hosted a digital Q&A meeting about the COVID-19 situation in Svalbardone of the few places in the world with no diagnosed cases, last Thursday.

The 45-minute webcast was shorter than similar meetings this spring when the pandemic was new and all visitor traffic cancelled at the peak of tourism season. But there was a lengthy and dominant focus during the most recent meeting regarding precautions for residents and visitors now allowed to travel here, and how officials will handle an outbreak when the virus reaches Svalbard as many expect is inevitible, especially with a surge of cases in Norway, Europe and elsewhere.

Below is a list of questions and replies by officials representing The Governor of Svalbard, Longyearbyen Community Council and Longyearbyen Hospital submitted before and during the meeting, translated from the Norwegian version posted at the city and governor’s website (some questions are mostly or entirely identical, but the full list is provided).

DOG CREMATORIUM FOR SVALBARD: Majority of 70-110 dogs that die every year dumped/buried illegally, city says. With only legal disposal facility closing, furnace OK’d as long-term fix

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Between 70 and 110 dogs in Svalbard die every year, and “probably more than half of the dogs are dumped or burned illegally,” according to Longyearbyen city officials. With a waste facility in Adventdalen that is the only legal means of disposal closing soon, the city’s community council on Tuesday approved a dog crematorium in next year’s budget envisioned as a long-term and self-funded solution.

4.5M KRONER IN SUPPLEMENTAL CRISIS AID SOUGHT FOR SVALBARD: Local council asks Parliament for help targeted largely at high number of ‘exempt’ residents

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A request for 4.5 million kroner in emergency unemployment assistance has been sent to Norway’s Parliament by the Longyearbyen Community Council, citing Svalbard’s high number of residents exempt from public assistance to those affected by the coronavirus epidemic on the mainland. The city is also seeking compensation for reducing fees for muncipal services.

“This group does not have rights and it will be contrary to Norway’s Svalbard policy to introduce them on a permanent basis, but right now we must set aside principles and provide assistance,” states the letter, first obtained and reported Wednesday afternoon by Svalbardposten. “This is the local government’s clear recommendation.”

NRK reported Wednesday that 90 percent of Longyearbyen’s tourism workforce is facing layoffs and about 300 of the estimated 500 people affected are exempt from benefits because they are from non-EU/EEA countries.

POLITICIANS TARGET TOTS AND TOURISTS: Visitor tax, private kindergarten among priorities for new city council majority

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A tax on tourists, separating the harbor from other local government operations and allowing privately operated kindergartens are among the proposals in a platform drafted by the new, more conservative majority of the Longyearbyen Community Council as it officially took office Monday.