News - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

HKS in Iceland: Summer Interns Help National Energy Authority Accelerate the Energy Transition

| Aug. 28, 2023

Iceland has made remarkable progress toward achieving carbon neutrality: 85 percent of primary energy use comes from geothermal and hydropower sources, while the remaining 15 percent mainly comes from fossil fuels used in road transport, aviation, and the fishing industry. This summer, Antonio Perry MPP 2024 and Monserrat Ocaña MPP 2024 had the opportunity to intern with Iceland’s National Energy Authority (NEA) and contribute to the country’s ambitious climate journey. 

Perry and Ocaña were introduced to Iceland’s energy transition through IGA-671M: “Policy and Social Innovations for the Changing Arctic,” taught by Arctic Initiative Co-Founder Halla Logadóttir, who also serves as the Director-General of Iceland’s NEA. They received funding for their internships through the Harvard Climate Internship Program. 

The Kennedy School students worked on two critical projects for the ‘last mile’ of Iceland’s energy transition.

For their first project, they conducted a comprehensive analysis of global electric vehicle (EV) incentive systems, with a focus on understanding other countries’ taxation mechanisms from an economic and regulatory standpoint. In the process, they deepened their knowledge of Iceland’s existing EV charging infrastructure and policy landscape. As Iceland prepares to modify its own EV taxation regime this year, the students’ analysis will inform the formulation of new national incentives to encourage EV uptake, with the end goal of reducing carbon emissions from road transport.

According to Perry, the internship was an opportunity to practice what is a common refrain at HKS: “to think about the policy effects on the ground.” During an EV road trip from the NEA’s headquarters in Reykjavik to the agency’s offices in the city of Akureuri, the students “witnessed first-hand all the hurdles that EV users still face and that are effectively bottlenecks to EV take-up. That trip definitely informed our policy analysis and recommendations to the NEA,” said Perry. 

For their second project, Perry and Ocaña turned their attention to ships and ports. Drawing from successful case studies of green ports around the world, they outlined potential strategies for Iceland as the island nation seeks to decarbonize its own ports and shipping fleets. They also interacted with local agencies to document the impact of tariff structures and incentives that affect shipping fleets in the country.

Ocana and Perry present to NEA staff

Caption: Ocaña and Perry present their findings and recommendations to the staff of Iceland’s National Energy Authority.

At the conclusion of their internship, Perry and Ocaña produced two policy reports, two policy memos, and presented their findings before NEA staff. 

“It's been amazing to see Iceland's dedication to sustainable progress in action,” said Ocaña of her internship experience. She added that she was “grateful for the experience and excited for a greener future ahead.”

“It was a privilege to have two great students from the Arctic course working here in Iceland this summer,” said Logadóttir. Emphasizing creative thinking and strategic communication, “Policy and Social Innovations for the Changing Arctic” challenges students to develop their own interdisciplinary solutions to pressing Arctic issues and empowers them to pitch their ideas to policymakers in the field. 

Logadóttir will teach IGA-671M “Policy and Social Innovations for the Changing Arctic” as a January-term course in 2024. To learn more about the course, interested students are encouraged to watch the trailer below or attend the shopping session on Tuesday, August 29 at 1:30 PM.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Hanlon, Elizabeth and Sunaina Pamudurthy. “HKS in Iceland: Summer Interns Help National Energy Authority Accelerate the Energy Transition.” News, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, August 28, 2023.

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