New complaint says 288-MW Norwegian wind farm violated Sami rights

Reindeer image by Denis Simonet.

January 20 (Renewables Now) - Swiss energy company BKW Energie AG is facing a complaint under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises for its failure to protect the rights of the Southern Sami people in Norway during planning and construction of Fosen Vind’s 288-MW Storheia wind farm. 

The Storheia region accounts for roughly 44% of the winter pastureland for the Southern Sami people’s reindeer herders. The wind farm built there is threatening the availability of pastureland and may force some herder families to give up their traditional trade, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) in Switzerland explained as it announced the filing of the complaint on Thursday.

Storheia is one of six wind farms being built by Fosen Vind, a company in which Norwegian state-owned utility Statkraft AS has a 52.1% stake. BKW has an indirect stake of 11.2%, according to information by STP. The latter says the Swiss utility has not taken actions to comply with its human rights due diligence obligations in respect of the wind project, nor used its influence as an investor to help find a friendly solution.

The Storheia wind farm reached completion in late 2019. Three other parks -- Geitfjellet (155 MW), Harbaksfjellet (108 MW) and Kvenndalsfjellet (101 MW) -- will be completed in the third quarter of 2020, according to an update by Statkraft.

STP said the project violates international agreements and human rights conventions. With the complaint it wants BKW to adjust its internal guidelines and improve its human rights due diligence, introduce a complaints mechanism that local and indigenous communities can use, and respect the land rights of indigenous communities in future projects.

In December 2018, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights asked the Norwegian government to stop the construction of the wind park because of an earlier complaint by Sami reindeer herders. The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy saw no basis for halting work on the project at the time, saying it had passed through all legal inspections.

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Browse all articles from Tsvetomira Tsanova

Tsvet has been following the development of the global renewable energy industry for almost nine years. She's got a soft spot for emerging markets.

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