EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Norway: EIRO CAR on the Changing Business Landscape in the Electricity sector and Industrial Relations in Europe

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  • Published on: 14 November 2012

Dag Olberg and Kristine Nergaard

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

Hydropower is the single most important resource for producing electricity in Norway, accounting for about 96 per cent of total electricity production. Close to 18 000 persons are employed in the power supply sector (2009). The large majority of employees are covered by trade union representation and concluded collective agreements cover all employees. Industrial relations are stable and have not been affected by the financial crisis. As a major producer of electricity based on renewable resources, the Norwegian government has set a target of increasing the production of renewable energy to 67.5 % by 2020.

1. General background information on the energy policy in your country and employment trends

1.1. Please explain briefly the main governmental strategies/action in relation to the electricity production and energy source mix. In your answer, please include information on the following aspects, where possible:

Is there an outspoken policy or plan in your country for any kind of change towards an increase or decrease of electricity production with any of the different sources (coal, oil, gas, hydro, eolic, sun, etc.)?

Hydropower is the single most important resource for producing electricity in Norway, and accounts for about 96 per cent of total electricity production. The government want to encourage increased production of renewable energy as such, i.e. from water, wind and bio. This will not so much affect the production of electricity (different sources), but be incentives to use more electricity (renewable) and less fossil energy (oil).

There is an outspoken policy plan, related to the EU-Directive, II 2009/28/EC), which consist of increasing the production of renewable energy based on water, wind and bio. The target is a share of 67.5 % of all energy use by 2020 (Press Release). In transport the target is 10 % renewable energy by 2020. The new El-certificate scheme passed by the Parliament – Stortinget - in 2011, is designed to stimulate new investments in energy production based on renewable sources. Energy producers included in the scheme will receive El-certificates according to how much electricity they produce from renewable sources. Suppliers of energy and some types of energy users will have to buy El-certificates according to a certain share of the electricity they supply or use. The end-users (customers) will finance the scheme as costs relating to buying El-certificates are added to the electricity bill.

The Energy Committee is a public committee appointed by the government 4 March 2011 (Mandate and members, In Norwegian). The mandate of this committee is to study the energy balance towards 2030 and 2050. The mandate is broad, including production, consumption, distribution and exchange with other countries. The committee is expected to finish its work by winter 2012.

Which is the targeted energy mix for the future (see material provided)? How, in which subsequent steps, such targets are expected to be met?

Hydropower as source for renewable energy will dominate also in the future. As for other renewable sources, the El-certificates are technology-neutral so market considerations will play a dominant role in further developments regarding renewable energy resources. There are plans to utilise energy from wind to a greater extent, small scale hydropower will be focused, and other renewable sources are also discussed and on the agenda, included bio-energy (today mainly heating, not electricity).

Are investments in networks (new connections, upgrade) envisaged? To what extent? With which specific goals?

Electricity – mainly hydro power – make up a substantial part of energy use in Norway (households as well as the energy intensive manufacturing industries), meaning that a nation-wide distribution net for electricity already exist. The Norwegian net capacity is being constantly upgraded. Large investments in the national and regional distribution nets are given high priority over the next years, and will increase the efficiency in the distribution net and allow for distribution of renewable energy across the country and between Norway and other counties.

What is the Government stance and what are the ongoing/envisaged action towards generation of electricity from the different broad groups of sources: nuclear /fossile /renewable energy?

As now, hydropower will also in the future be the main source for electricity production. Wind as source for electricity production will also be promoted. The El-certificate scheme will be in place in Norway and Sweden from 1 January 2012. Two power plants based on gas from the North Sea have been built despite political controversy due to CO2 emissions.

What are the recent employment trends in the different subsectors of power generation according to the different broad groups of sources: nuclear/fossile/renewable energy? Please indicate development since 2005 with reference to generation, distribution, and sale separately.

We do not have detailed information on employment figures according to energy sources. In general it can be noted that there were 17 902 employees in the power supply sector in 2009. This constitutes growth of nearly 10 per cent since 2004 and 3 per cent since 2008. An estimate is that around 50% of these are employed in the production of electricity (Report by consultancy Menon 2010). Employment in the electricity sector is mainly related to production from water resources and to operating and maintenance of distribution capacities, i.e. both production and distribution. The number of persons directly employed in renewable power generation from wind and biomass is low, as is the number of persons employed in electricity from fossile sources (the 2 gas plants).

1.2. Government policy for increase of the share of renewable resources according to the RES directive

Are any subsidies being granted for different types of RES for electricity providers? If yes, please provide briefly the details

The El-certificate scheme (from 1 January 2012) is the prominent illustration, in combination with the general work to reach the targets set by the EU-Directive. The ENOVA supports some forms of alternative energy production, such as bio energy, and has earlier supported electricity production based on wind energy. The scheme is technology-neutral. In the future production based on wind will be supported by this scheme, rather than by ENOVA-unit as earlier.

Have subsidies for RES been cut recently? Was this a result of the crisis, of budget constraints, or the result of a policy revision (following a policy assessment, due to a disporportionate use of subsidies, etc.)? Please provide brief details.

Subsidies have not been cut. There will rather be an increase and new variations due to the introduction of El-certificates and the EU-targets. As part of the policy measures introduced in 2009 to counteract the finance crises, funding for renewable energy was increased, included funding for research and development.

Are there any other forms of support foreseen for promoting electricity generation of RES?

The issue is expected to be high on the political agenda, but we do not at this time foresee any other measures than the ones implemented today, incl. the El-certificates.

Please include any other aspects you consider to be worth mentioning regarding the state of play and the future prospects of RES in your country.

Norway has already a very high proportion of electricity from renewable sources (mainly hydropower), and is also investing in bio energy (mainly heating), wind and allocates substantial funds to research and development. The distribution net with connections to several neighbouring countries means that Norway is part of an international electricity market. Energy policy included the use of electricity in the manufacturing industries as well as whether more power plants based on gas from the North Sea should be built, will be discussed in the years to come.

1.3. Are there any studies and documents assessing the employment impact of energy policies and of prospective changes in the energy mix within the electricity sector? This could include, for instance,

Employment effects resulting from the unbundling of activities (production from distribution)

Not known

Employment effects (on quantity and quality of work) resulting from the possible shifts within the electricity production sector from traditional sources to RES

Not known, not relevant within near future since hydropower will dominate and since there are very little electricity production based on non RES. Investments in other types of renewable energy will most probably result in increased employment, included indirect employment effects in sectors such as technology and development activities etc. Employment effects will be discussed by the Energy Committee, and have also been discussed in the report by the consultancy Menon (Report by consultancy Menon 2010).

  • Employment effects from investments in infrastructure (renewal of grids, introduction of smart meter technology, district heating)

Not known, but see paragraph above.

The need for retraining of workers or provision of new qualifications linked to the sector transformations

Qualifications and competence issues in relation to developments in the energy sector are also parts of the mandate of the Energy committee. It has in general been noted that there will be a growing demand for technicians and also a growing demand for qualifications related to projecting. One report notes that recruitment (relatively few new trained technicians) and age composition (relatively old workforce) represent challenges to the energy sector (Fafo-report 2010:19 (On the future competency requirements in the electricity sector)).

Possible spatial mobility of workers as a result of more decentralised production (linked both to new activities and to restructuring of existing ones)

Not known, but the issue does not seem very relevant as the production today is decentralised to the hydro plants.

Please include any other aspects you consider to be worth mentioning regarding prospective impacts on employment and industrial relations

One report notes that the energy industry has gone through radical political, structural and organizational changes over the last decades. The character of the industry has changed from that of a national infrastructure project to one appropriate to its role as an integrated part of the European energy market. Ownership and the organisation of the companies have also been changed accordingly. New investments, partly due to political agreements and goals concerning climate, will increase activity in the industry in the years to come (Fafo-report 2010:19 (On the future competency requirements in the electricity sector)).

1.4 To what extent are the social partners involved or consulted concerning the governmental energy policy, notably in relation to employment impacts? Has this happened on an ad-hoc basis or on a structural, permanent basis? Is there a special tripartite social dialogue body for such consultations? Did consultation take place at national level, at sector level, or at the initiative of individual companies? Please briefly provide details.

The social partners have traditionally been involved in energy policies on both permanent and ad hoc basis. Landsorganisasjonen i Norge (LO),The Confederation of Norwegian Trade Unions and Næringslivets Hovedorganisasjon, NHO, The Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise are represented in the Energy committee, which is concerned with the energy situation on broad scale and in the long term view. LO and NHO as well as the relevant branch/sector level trade unions and employer associations are concerned with industrial policies, also regarding energy supply. The sector level organisations at the employer as well as the trade unions side have traditionally had the opportunity to express their views in public hearings as well as through lobbying activities. This is also the case in questions concerning energy policies, among others issues related to the development of the energy intensive industries which have been important in Norway (aluminium industry and other industries based on easy access to hydropower).

2. Composition, structure and employment trends for the different resources used for electricity production

2.1 Please give an overview of the current sectoral composition of electricity production in your country, by giving for each of these seven groups of energy sources, the NAME of the three largest producing, the NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES of these companies, and the public or private STATUS of the EMPLOYMENT RELATIONSHIP with their employees.

For all companies listed, as a summary, please indicate:

  1. Total production and its distribution across different energy sources
  2. Total employment and its distribution across different energy sources
  3. Production plants and their respective energy source(s)
Electricity production

Electricity production with



(the largest 3 in market share)


Reference year for the number of employees

Private/Public STATUS of WORKERS


Naturkraft (Kårstø)



Private (*)

Statoil (Mongstad)




Statoil (Melkøya)

No figures




(Not in commercial use)


Statkraft Energi AS/ SF




E-CO Energi AS




Norsk Hydro AS





(So far few producers**)







(*) Companies owned or controlled by public authorities, employment regulations according to private sector.

(**)In 2009 there were 18 registered producers. Wind-based energy represented 0,8 per cent of the total energy production in the country (Source: NVE, Wind – production statistics 2010)

(***) District heating based on bio is increasing in importance, but is not classified as production of electricity.

Some producers of electricity have the capacity to also engage in activities not directly relating to production, such as planning, projecting and development. One report estimates that 8914 persons were employed in production of hydropower in 2008 MENON, Report nr 10/2010)

2.2 Please provide an overview of the current organisation of electricity distribution in your country. Is there a single distributing company/body? Are there multiple companies? At national or territorial level?

The Statnett (Statnett) is the single provider at national level, and responsible for all high voltage electricity transmission and distribution in Norway. Statnett is a state owned enterprise, deregulated from state administration in 1992 when the responsibilities for national transmission power grid (Statnett) and the state owned power plants (Statkraft Energi) was split, and organised as separate enterprises outside the state administration. Several companies cover end-users. These are commercial companies, but owned or controlled directly or indirectly (though producer companies with public ownership) by local authorities, often together with Statnett.

2.3 Please indicate the NAME of the three largest distributing companies, the NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES of these companies, and the public or private STATUS of the EMPLOYMENT RELATIONSHIP with their employees.

Distribution companies



(the largest 3 in market share)


Reference year for the number of employees

Private/Public STATUS of WORKERS

Distribution GRID

Hafslund Nett AS



Private (*)





Skagerak Nett AS




(*) Companies owned or controlled by public authorities, employment regulations according to private sector.

Employment figures alone do not indicate the size of companies, as companies to varying degrees have outsourced related maintenance and other activities to subcontractors.

2.4. Where there any significant developments/changes since 2008 for a specific company or source of electricity production in numbers of employees or in their public/private status? Was this due to the current economic crisis? Were there any instances of unbundling or mergers? With what consequences in terms of employment and industrial relations?

Production and distribution of electricity were not affected in terms of structural changes, terms of employment or industrial relations. Norway was affected by the economic down-turn 2008/2009, but effects were relatively mild compared to other European countries.

3. Industrial relations in the electricity sector: Actors

3.1 Please provide details on the membership in the electricity sector and membership of the top 3 producing and distributing companies in employer’s organisation (see questions 2.1-2.3 above). Please provide information on the name of the trade unions organising in this subsector and the level of their membership, or otherwise provide overall data but please include indications on differences in membership densities across subsectors.

The LO affiliated union EL&IT Forbundet EL&IT – for energy, electrical engineering, telecommunications and IT workers has a high share of its members working in production, distribution and maintenance of electricity. El&It is the largest union in the energy sector, and the main share of its member are among blue-collar workers.

Likewise, NITOThe Norwegian Society of Engineers and Technologists is represented in the electricity sector, and is the second largest union. TEKNAThe Norwegian Society of Graduate Technical and Scientific Professionals consists of professionals with a master degree or equivalent in science or technology. Tekna members are typically found in large companies, while they may not be represented in small companies. A number of other unions may be present, but with few members.

We have no figures on differences in membership across sectors, but EL&IT will typically organise blue-collar workers, whereas NITO and TEKNA organise white-collar workers with an engineer degree. There is no indication on systematic differences in density levels across sectors.

On the employer side Energi Norge (Energy Norway) is the largest sector organisation for employers in the energy sector, and an affiliate of NHO. Some employers in municipally owned or controlled electricity works are organised in KS Bedrift, which is part of The Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS). Over the last 10-20 years, a number of electricity companies (producers as well as distribution/net operators) have left KS in favour of Energy Norway.

Trade union representation and Membership to employers’ organisation

Electricity production with



(largest 3 in market share)

Membership to employers organisation

(indicate the name of the relevant employers organisation)

Trade union presence per sub-sector

(indicate the name of trade union(s) and the level of their membership in this subsector companies)


Naturkraft (Kårstø)

Energi Norge/NHO

EL&IT, Nito, Tekna + several smaller unions.

Statoil (Mongstad)

Energi Norge/NHO

Statoil (Melkøya)

Energi Norge/NHO



Energi Norge/NHO

EL&IT, Nito, Tekna + several smaller unions

E-CO Energy

Energi Norge/NHO

Norsk Hydro

Energi Norge/NHO


*No detailed inforamation on the number of members per company, union density at sector level ca 80%

And in the distributing companies

Distribution GRID


Hafslund Nett

Energi Norge/NHO

EL&IT, Nito, Tekna + several smaller unions*

BKK Nett

Energi Norge/NHO

Skagerak Nett

Energi Norge/NHO

*No detailed inforamation on the number of members per company, union density at sector level ca 80%

In addition Statnett – the national level provider - is organised in the employer organisation Spekter. Here some other unions are present.

3.2 To what extent are employees in the different subsectors (fossil/nuclear/RES) covered by trade union representation? Has there been any impact of the crisis on trade union representation?

The large majority of employees are covered by trade union representation. It is assumed that approximately 80% of the employees within the sector are organised, which is close to trade union membership in general in public sector. There has not been any impact on this of the economic crises.

3.3 Have there been major reorganisations/splits/mergers of trade unions or employers organisations in the sector during the last five years?

The main picture is that there have been no changes. On the employer side there is still a divide between municipal employer organisation KS and the NHO. A slight trend consisting of electricity producers leaving KS in favour of NHO has been noted, although this is part of a long term development.

3.4. Have new actors (trade unions or employers organisations) been founded in recent years, especially in the newly evolving RES industries? Or is the industry covered by established actors?

No change, the industry is covered by established actors.

3.5. Have the established sectoral actors (both trade unions and employer organisations) started any initiative to extend their representation to the new emerging parts of the sector? Please describe such initiatives and their results so far.

New initiatives, for instance electricity production based on wind, are mainly taken by the established actors. There have not been major changes in the energy industry that have made it necessary for the established sectorial actors to extend their representation.

Role of collective bargaining and social dialogue

4.1 Please provide information on the structure of collective bargaining in the electricity sector. Please, briefly mention the main characteristics of collective bargaining:

At what level are collective agreements within the subsectors of the electricity sector (traditional providers, newly emerging providers) concluded (company, sectoral level and/or inter-sectoral level)? Is there a difference between the producers and the distributors?

Nationwide collective agreements are concluded at sector level. The agreements open up for supplemental company level bargaining (two-tiered bargaining system). There is no difference between producers and distributors (often producers and distributors are part of the same company structure), and the same agreement covers production as well as distribution of hydroelectricity.

Estimate the coverage rate of collective bargaining in terms of companies and employees: are there any differences in coverage across different subsectors of electricity production?

Hydropower is the traditional and dominating source of electricity, with a very high coverage rate. Within hydropower - the all dominating part of the Norwegian electricity sector – we would expect almost 100% coverage rate, and that the majority of employees in these companies are covered by agreements. As fossil fuels and other branches (few employees) often is part of the activity of established companies, the main picture is also here high coverage rates in these sectors. We have no information on collective agreement coverage in the smallest electricity plants (micro plants), but employment in these is negligible

4.2 Please comment on the most recent collective agreements reached at sector level and at company level. Please address the following topics:

Pay and working time: level and trends relative to the national average and significant differences across subsectors of the electricity industry.

The collective agreement “Energioverenskomsten Energi Norge” covers the period from 2010 till 2012, and is an agreement between NHO/Energi Norge and LO/EL&IT Forbundet. No significant new trends are noted in the 2010-2012 renegotiations. Working time is regulated according to standard working time, with regulations compensating shift work and unsocial hours. The union describes wage growth in the energy sector as positive, slightly over average. Wage growth has generally been stable in the energy sector, also relative to national average. The agreement covers both production and grid/distribution.

We have no figures for employees outside hydropower, but these will be few and mainly covered by other agreements which will be more or less at level with Energioverenskomsten.

  • Cooperation between the social partners and government

Have the government started any social dialogue or social concentration in the electricity sector since 2008? Please illustrate the features and results of any such initiatives.

No new initiatives, there is a tradition for involving the social partners in public hearings and public committees deliberating energy policy matters. Both LO and NHO are represented in the Energy Committee.

Have bipartite and/or tripartite bodies dealing with specific issues of the electricity industry been created since 2008?

“The Competence-Regulation”, a regulation based on the Act relating to the generation, conversion, transmission, trading, distribution and use of energy etc., is a regulation that put restrictions on employers’ use of outsourcing and hiring of external employees in the distribution companies. This regulation was finally agreed upon by the parties and enacted 1 July 2011, originally an initiative mainly by the EL&IT trade union. The reason for this regulation was to ensure that companies would have sufficient qualified staffs which are regarded as important in cases where extensive repairs have to be executed.

Have there been since 2008 any joint initiatives of cooperation between social partners to influence or steer the energy policy developed by the government in your country? Or have such initiatives been taken separately by certain social partner organisations?

The social partners have traditionally been concerned with manufacturing industry’s need for electricity. The reform regarding the EL-certificates has been on the agenda of both LO/LO unions and NHO/NHO-affiliates, since some sectors will be more affected than others. We have no information on whether the relevant organisations have acted together, but they have shared the same concerns (increased costs for manufacturing companies with energy intensive production will make production in Norway more expensive compared to counties without such taxes).

Have the social partners been involved in the making of the national action plan to reach the 2020 target, or in issues aiming to secure the supply of enough electricity?

The national action plan consists mainly in reaching the target of 67.5 % renewable energy which is higher than the EU target. This is foremost a governmental task, but as noted the social partners at central level (LO and NHO) are represented in the Energy Committee. The social partners have also given their view on the directive and on how this can be implanted in Norway.

4.4. Please provide information about the views of the trade unions and employer organisations on the main changes regarding employment and working conditions affecting the sector since 2008 and especially on the impact of the current crisis (for instance on employment trends, quality of jobs, working hours, wages, fixed-term employment, part-time, temporary agency work, participation in training, outsourcing, subcontracting etc.).

The financial crisis has not affected the electricity industry in Norway, i.e. no observed effects of the crises on employment contracts, outsourcing etc. The electricity sector and the companies have been restructuring processes over the last 10-20 years due to the many changes related to deregulation of the market etc., but the changes mainly took place before 2008.

More generally, the EL&IT union has noted a trend toward more mobility in the sector (related to changing company structures, outsourcing, etc.), the employer organisation Energi Norge is in general concerned with recruitment within the sector, included why some relatively young workers leave the sector for other types of employment. Such issues are not being related to the financial crisis.

5. Commentary

Due to extensive hydropower resources Norway is in a special position compared to many other countries in Europe. National authorities have noted that Norway has the largest per capita hydropower production, and is the sixth largest hydropower producer in the world. Hydropower will therefore be the single most important source of electricity also in the future. Substantial activities are planned to utilize also other renewable resources for production of electricity. The El-certificate scheme is designed to support new investments in electricity production from renewable sources. Research and development projects concern both bio energy and wind, the country has large wind- and wave power resources along its coast.

The energy sector has during the last decades been characterized by significant deregulation processes which also have affected enterprise organisation and ownership. In a comparative picture Norway relatively early introduced a competitive regime, dividing natural monopoly activities such as national distribution capacities from production and sales. Such structural changes are not associated with the financial crisis in 2008/2009 or the current economic crisis in Europe. Neither has the economic crisis affected social dialogue or industrial relations in the electricity sector. Industrial relations in the sector are stable, and the Norwegian tradition for tripartite cooperation also includes the electricity sector. So far, new types of renewable energy are also covered by this regime, due to the fact that established actors within the energy sector are important also in the new segments.

Dag Olberg and Kristine Nergaard, Fafo

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