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Home* News and Stories → Nort­hern news: bank and bat­te­ries

Nort­hern news: bank and bat­te­ries

The polar night is usual­ly not a time of big news from the north, and the cur­rent dark sea­son fol­lows that tra­di­ti­on – for­tu­n­a­te­ly, as news have too often not been good ones this year. A polar bear that was seen in Advent­da­len did not bother to come clo­se to Lon­gye­ar­by­en, which is good. The­re is, so far, no avalan­che risk rele­vant for the sett­le­ment, which is also good. In pre­vious win­ters, avalan­che warnings have led to evacua­tions of parts of Lon­gye­ar­by­en over weeks or even mon­ths.

But that does altog­e­ther not mean that not­hing hap­pens at all. A lot hap­pens behind the sce­ne to fight the eco­no­mi­c­al con­se­quen­ces of the coro­na cri­sis, which have hit Lon­gye­ar­by­en hard, even though the­re has not been any con­fir­med infec­tion in Spits­ber­gen so far.

A bat­te­ry for Lon­gye­ar­by­en

This is some­thing that pro­bab­ly ever­y­bo­dy can agree on: the coal power plant, built in 1982, is a stone-age kind of power solu­ti­on for Lon­gye­ar­by­en, an other­wi­se rather modern place. But it is a mat­ter of hot deba­te what kind of ener­gy sup­ply Lon­gye­ar­by­en may have in the future.

But one thing appears to be cer­tain: any ener­gy sup­ply that invol­ves rene­wa­bles will requi­re some kind of ener­gy sto­rage sys­tem. Important steps have now been made in this direc­tion, as Sval­bard­pos­ten reports: the muni­ci­pa­li­ty (Lokals­ty­re) has deci­ded to dedi­ca­te 40 mil­li­on kro­ner in the bud­get for 2021 to a bat­te­ry park next to the power plant. The sta­te com­pa­ny Eno­va is sup­po­sed to cover the rest of the cos­ts which are esti­ma­ted at 60 mil­li­on kro­ner in total.

The bat­te­ry park is expec­ted to also make today’s ener­gy sup­ply che­a­per, more reli­able and to redu­ce green­house gas emis­si­ons signi­fi­cant­ly when ener­gy peaks can be buf­fe­red by the bat­te­ry rather than by the coal power plant its­elf.

Coal power plant Longyearbyen

Today’s coal power plant in Lon­gye­ar­by­en: not exact­ly an up-to-date ener­gy solu­ti­on.

The bank doesn’t always win

It is usual­ly the bank that wins in the end, but not always. SpareBan­ken Nordnor­ge deci­ded ear­lier this year to clo­se their branch office in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, which is – was – Spitsbergen’s only bank. Not sur­pri­sin­gly, this decisi­on has been met with strong cri­ti­zism local­ly. Many bank ser­vices are avail­ab­le only, but many ques­ti­ons remain open, inclu­ding important ones for which cli­ents often pre­fer to meet someo­ne in their bank in per­son. And ano­t­her poten­ti­al pro­blem, a bit more Lon­gye­ar­by­en-spe­ci­fic, is the ques­ti­on of the many non-Nor­we­gi­an locals who need to iden­ti­fy them­sel­ves for cer­tain tran­sac­tions. The­re is the idea that the post office may pro­vi­de this ser­vice in the future.

And yet ano­t­her ques­ti­on, also rele­vant for tou­rists, is cash. Spitsbergen’s one and only ATM has been out of ser­vice for a long time alrea­dy, becau­se of pro­blems with the cash sup­ply. It is not yet clear what the solu­ti­on might be. Various paying methods without cash are wide­ly used in Nor­way inclu­ding Lon­gye­ar­by­en the­se days, but many still want some cash in the wal­let and it is still legal ten­der, sup­po­sed to be avail­ab­le any­whe­re in the coun­try.

Any­way, the bank clo­sed for good on 18 Decem­ber des­pi­te of local pro­test. The staff was offe­red a warm fare­well by local choirs, and cele­bra­ti­ons are said to have ended in the popu­lar Karls­ber­ger Puben just oppo­si­te the road.

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last modification: 2020-12-23 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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