While the establishment of VistOrka in 1999 marks the real beginning of attempting the transition to a hydrogen based economy in Iceland, the possibility of using hydrogen as a fuel had been under investigation at the University of Iceland for over two decades. When the original idea was presented by Prof. Bragi Arnason around 1970, he argued that the use of hydrogen as a fuel in Iceland could begin around the turn of this century. In that forecast he was correct.

The current success of the Icelandic hydrogen project is largely due to the unique composition of VistOrka as a company. From an early stage, it was clear that, in order to successfully implement a project as ambitious as the creation of a hydrogen society, it would be necessary for all the key players to work closely together.

In the beginning the New Business Venture Fund set out the largest part of the needed funds but INE was only planned as one out of several small initiatives that would test and compare energy technologies. The purpose of VistOrka is to act as a holding company for the Icelandic shares in those companies, giving backup from the energy companies and know how in the regional settings. A watershed development, the creation of VistOrka represents a unique business set-up as energy companies, private industry, research institutions, the academia and government brought together in Icelandic New Energy with the singular aim; of 

Testing hydrogen as an energy carrier

VistOrka joined forces with three global players in the field of hydrogen fuel technology, DaimlerChrysler, Norsk Hydro and Shell Hydrogen, to form Icelandic New Energy Ltd. Since 2008 and the start of the SMART-H2 project, Reykjaviks Energy and the ministery of Industry bought more shares from the New Business bventure fund.

The Future
Until now, Icelandic New Energy has focused its energies on taking the first steps towards the utilisation of hydrogen as a fuel in Iceland. This initiative has been welcomed elsewhere in the world, and the company along with VistOrka have received several ideas for development projects and possibilities for wider collaboration from a variety of organisations, many of them far beyond Iceland’s shores.

As a result, VistOrka has decided to expand its operations and welcome international participation in the company’s activities. In the future, its strategic focus will be on the following areas:

  • All aspects of the production, distribution and use of hydrogen as a future energy carrier.

  • Technology and solutions that support the production, distribution and use of renewable energy. This could include software for operational management, as well as the optimisation and control of energy production.

While VistOrka plans to work on an international scale, the company intends to continue in its primary role as the backbone of the first hydrogen society to be created in the world - in Iceland.

VistOrka's Owners

The New Business Venture Fund
Since its inception, the New Business Venture Fund has sought to make an active contribution towards interesting and innovative business ideas that can be expected to result in a good return for the Fund. Its interest in VistOrka, and through it Icelandic New Energy, is a good example of the active role it plays in Iceland’s economic development.

The unpredictable nature of investment in business ideas during their initial stages is a risk factor inherent in the Fund’s operations. Overcoming initial obstacles and attracting the interest of other parties in such projects can be a daunting task, demanding a great deal of patience, as well as hard work.

One of the most positive aspects in the case of VistOrka is the participation of an organisation on the scale of European Union, along with major global players on a par with Shell, DaimlerChrysler and Norsk Hydro, who have all expressed their interest in Iceland’s hydrogenisation and will be fully involved in turning this project into reality in the coming years.

Research and testing conducted so far indicate that hydrogen will become a cost-efficient energy option within a few years. Anticipation is strong in Iceland that, as the country’s hydrogen economy develops; the dream of a fully hydrogenised domestic fishing fleet may soon become a reality.

Ministry of Industry and Commerce
Icelanders enjoy one of the world’s highest standards of living in one of the world’s most advanced societies, a modern and thriving economy in which a combination of liberal rules on foreign investment, recent legislation on international trading companies, little red tape, a friendly public administration and a well-educated, flexible workforce all combine to welcome the foreign investor. The main objective of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce is to improve entrepreneurship and competitiveness in growth and jobs, based on a solid, competitive framework of conditions for companies and individuals alike.

Under its auspices, the Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs monitors and formulates policy relating to the development of new energy sources and providers. At present, one of its main projects centres on research into the development of clean fuels such as hydrogen, which can be produced with the help of Iceland’s rich natural energy resources when the technology for doing so becomes both available and economical.

The Icelandic Government’s priorities on hydrogen are part of a long-standing policy aimed at increasing the utilisation of renewable energy in harmony with the environment. As a result, the establishment of Icelandic New Energy enjoys full government support. The opening of the first hydrogen refuelling station in Reykjavik, which is also the world’s first hydrogen station to be built at a conventional petrol station, is a major step in bringing hydrogen closer to the public and in full concordance with Icelandic Government policy of creating a hydrogen society.

Landsvirkjun - The National Power Company
The largest electricity producer in Iceland, the National Power Company is owned by the Icelandic State (50%) and two of the country’s largest municipalities, Reykjav