The power company SEV was founded on the 1st of October in 1946. The first meeting, at which SEV was founded, took place in Tórshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands. It was attended by representatives from 19 municipalities from Streymoy, Eysturoy and Vágoy. When the meeting was held the Faroese had spent 40 years trying, with various methods, to get electricity across the country.
Hydroelectric Power in Fossá
Early in the last decade discussions surfaced about how the Faroese could obtain electricity. At this stage, the turn of the decade, electricity had become a widespread phenomenon in the developed world. People on the Faroe Islands intended to create an advanced society; this is where the discussion about producing electrical current out of the water in the rivers was born.
During the summer of 1907, the first test for getting electricity out of water was carried out in Vestmanna. Ólavur á Heygum, a local farmer and businessman, was the creator. He built a stone wall in the water pressured river Fossá. The water was then to be led down into the village where there was a turbine that produced electricity for the people of Vestmanna.
Ólavur á Heygum never succeeded in carrying out his hydroelectric power project. The expenditure got too high, and he never received any public funding. He continued working on the project until he passed away in 1923.
Scattered Electricity Production
People, scattered around on the different islands, supported the notion of producing electricity. The municipality of Vágur built the first hydroelectric power plant in 1921, situated in Botni on the west side of Suðuroy. The same year the municipality of Tórshavn started using a diesel plant.
In 1931 the municipality of Klaksvík built a hydroelectric power plant in Strond. After that there was a pause in the overall electricity plan. Privately, however, people on different islands got themselves hydroelectric power plants of different sizes, as well as diesel plants for the production of electricity for houses and companies.
It was clear early on that in order to provide the Faroe Islands with electricity, the municipalies needed to cooperate with each other. The first thing that needed to be done was to produce electricity for Streymoy, Eysturoy and Vágoy – all islands rich in people and water.
SEV is Founded
After the Second World War preparations and planning started in Vestmanna. On the 1st of October 1946 most of the municipalities on Streymoy, Eysturoy and Vágoy founded the inter-municipal power company SEV. Sjóvar municipality in Eysturoy had no representative at the meeting; neither did Kvívíkar municipality, Kollafjarðar municipality and Tórshavnar municipality in Streymoy.
Kvívík and Kollafjørður were planning to build their own hydroelectric power plant in Leynum, by the lake Leynisvatn. The municipality of Tórshavn preferred to build a new diesel plant instead of joining inter-municipal collaboration. Tórshavnar municipality did, however, agree to buy electricity from SEV if the price was lowered.
The 19 municipalities were: Oyndarfjarðar-, Fuglafjarðar-, Lorvíkar-, Gøtu-, Nes-, Sunda-, Eiðis-, Funnings-, Haldórsvíkar-, Saksunar-, Hvalvíkar-, Vestmanna-, Kaldbaks-, Tórshavnar exterior-, Kirkjubøar-, Sandavágs-, Miðvágs-, Sørvágs- and Bíggjar municipality.
Regulation proposals for the company were presented at the funding meeting. The first paragraph reads: ‘SEV is an inter-municipal co-operative company. The goal is to develop power supply and electrical power to the people living on Vágoy, Streymoy and Eysturoy. The company will be based in Vestmanna.’
A board of Representatives and a Board of Directors were to govern the company. A managing director was to handle the daily management. Gunnar Dahl Olsen, a civil servant and chairman of the County Board in Vestmanna, was elected as the first chairman of the Board of Directors. He remained chairman until 1975 when he retired because of age.
Jóan Pauli Gregersen, businessman from Syðrugøtu, was the first chairman of SEV’s Board of Representatives. He was chairman until he left the position in 1965.
On 1st January 2009 the Board og Representatives was replaced by a general meeting, which every fourth year elects seven members for the Board of Directors. The members are normally elected for a four-year period, but the general meeting can reelect a new board or new members of the board during the period if necessary.
The company’s name, SEV, stems from Streymoy, Eysturoy and Vágoy. The name also exists in Faroese flora. Before light bulbs were invented, ‘sev’ was used as an ignition cord in lamp chimneys.
Hydroelectric Power Development in Vestmanna
The first steps SEV needed to take was to obtain the necessary permissions to use water for power, as well as getting funding for the project.
Four years and eight months after the birth of SEV, the company had enough funding to build and develop hydroelectric power in Vestmanna. The Fossá plant was part of the project.
It proved difficult to get funding for the project. During the years many meetings were held between SEV, the national authorities and the authorities from the Kingdom of Denmark. One question that had to be solved in order to receive any public funding was the decision between developing Fossá in Vestmanna or by the lake Leynavatn.
The work started when the authorities were convinced about the project being better suited for Vestmanna. The Project in Vestmanna cost some DKK 14 million. Faroe Islanders and Danes had to provide one half each of the funding. The Faroese DKK seven million share was funded by a DKK two million loan from the bank Sparikassin, DKK one million in securities, and DKK three million in Marshall money. The Prime Minister’s Department would get the DKK seven million Danish share funded by a low interest loan from the state. One condition for receiving the state loan was to oblige the Faroese legislative authority to provide interest subsidies on loans taken in the Faroes.
SEV signed contracts with building- and engineering companies, and preparations for the building of the Fossá plant got under way. The extension work in Vestmanna concerned the Fossá plant and building walls along the water in Fonsdali and in Lómundaroyrum. It was the biggest project ever to be undertaken in the Faroes.
SEV got its first employees. SEV’s first managing director was Hjalgrím Winther. He was the managing director from 1953 to 1983, when Klæmint Weihe replaced him. Mr. Weihe was the managing director of SEV for 25 years. 1st of January 2009 Hákun Djurhuus became the third managing director of the electricity company.
The Fossá plant opened officially on May 5, 1954. The development of hydroelectric power continued in 1956-1963. At this stage hydroelectric power had reached Mýrunum and Heljareyga – the Mýru plant and the Heyga plant were brought into production.
All Municipalities join SEV
It did not take long before most people acknowledged that no village in the Faroes should be without electricity. Politicians agreed that everybody should have access to electricity at the same price. This led to debates about whether all the municipalities could become members of SEV. Acts that would lead to all the municipalities being able to join SEV were agreed upon just before the municipal election in 1962. The acts were to be approved at a later meeting.
The new municipalities were to become members on April 1, 1963. The last and final agreement in the development of SEV was taken at the Board of Representatives meeting on April 8, 1963.
The last village to join SEV’s power supply system was Múli.
The extension of SEV resulted in SEV taking over all the other power plants in the country. Plants developed by municipalities – the plant in Tórshavn, the Vágur plant and the plant in Klaksvík.
Electricity Demand Grows
The growing demand for electricity in the 1970s led to a realisation that more power was needed. At this stage, growth expectations for electricity consumption were placed at a 10% increase per year.
There was also an intention to improve communication in general. This meant that the diesel plants in Sandoy, Hesti and Nólsoy were to be closed, in order for the islands to be connected to the main power supply system via cables on the bottom of the ocean.
In October 1972 the growing demand for electricity led to the building of the Sund plant. It produces electricity via motors that run on heavy oil. The two motors at the plant were connected in November and December 1974. The plant was fully functional by the beginning of 1975.
The Sund plant got another motor in 1979, and in the beginning of the 1980s the plant needed to be extended again. Today there are five motors at the plant, which produces most of the Faroese electricity every single day. The Sund plant operates as a backup and gets connected if another plant, for some reason or another, is out of function. The Sund plant is built in order to be able to supply the whole country if necessary.
In the 1970s, shortly after the Sund plant was up and running, the first oil crisis occurred. Talk emerged about producing hydroelectric power or using other sustainable resources. The second oil crisis, in 1979, encouraged plans about developing hydroelectric power.
Eiði 1, 2, 3 and 4
The hydroelectric power plant plan for Eysturoy, which was called Eiði 1, 2, 3 and 4, came on the agenda. The project involved gathering water from all Eysturoy for hydroelectric power production. On October 2nd 1984 SEV’s Board of Directors consented the development of Eiði 1.
The Eiði 1 project involved building a dam in the lake Eyðisvatn, building a hydroelectric power plant in Eiði, and digging tunnels north to Svínabotn and Norðskála. The first turbine at the Eiði plant was started on April 28, 1987.
During the first half of the 1990s the financial crisis resulted in a pause in developments. The work on Eiði 3 started in 1997. This work involved building a tunnel eastwards from Eiðisvatn to the river Stórá, situated above Funningur, and then southwards to the river Vesturdalsá Millum Fjarða. The work on Eiði 3 was done in February 2000.
The hydroelectric power demand in Eysturoy will be fully supplied when projects Eiði 2 and Eiði 4 are carried through. This work involves building tunnels on the south part of Eysturoy.
60 Years of Development
On the 1st of October 2006 SEV had its 60th birthday. During these years the company has become an important foundation in the Faroese society. The power company has continually thrived to adapt to new and changing times, in order for the company to continually supply everybody with the steady flow of electricity needed.
The company also follows developments in other sustainable energy sources. SEV wanted to utilise the wind as much as possible. This required thorough research, which started in 1993 with the establishment of a windmill in Neshaga, above Toftir.
At the turn of the decade, technological development led to considerations about carrying out a wind power trial project. The first steps in this direction were taken in 2003 when SEV signed a 10-year agreement to buy electricity from Sp/f Røkt, the private company that has three windmills in Mýrunum above Vestmanna. The second step was taken in 2005 when SEV added three more wind mills in Neshaga.
SEV is also involved in projects that deal with wave energy, solar power and hydrogen technology.
Research into wave power indicates the possibility of building a trial plant and receiving funding for it.
In co-operation with the municipality of Vestmanna, SEV has the possibility to follow the development of a solar power system in Vestmanna.
SEV, the Icelandic company New Energy, and the authorities in the Faroe Islands and Greenland have created the North Atlantic Hydrogen Association. The intention of the association is to cast light on hydrogen technology. This form of power might become an important energy factor in the future.
The development of the Faroese power supply system has been going on for more than half a century, and SEV’s foundation remains a democratic people’s organisation, owned by all the Faroese municipalities, and thereby owned by the people. SEV’s profit from sale of electricity is mostly spent on future extensions and work on the power supply units and the power supply system. In this way everybody makes use of SEV’s profit, and SEV can keep on developing and supplying for the growing demand of electricity.