Interview with Iceland’s New National Energy Director-General,
Halla Hrund Logadóttir
New Director-General of Iceland’s National Energy Authority, Halla Hrund Logadóttir, yearns to work for Iceland, the Arctic and the World in all its diversity at this watershed moment in history of Energy Change. She is forty-one, born 1981 and learnt her work ethics at her grandparent’s farm at Hörglandskot, Kirkjubæjarklaustur – Church-Farm- Cloister. She took the experience to her studies in Reykjavík and graduated from the Women’s College in 2001 and gained a degree in Political Sciences from University of Iceland in 2005. Halla Hrund then went abroad to work in the Icelandic Embassy in Brussels. In 2009, she was on her way to Togo, Africa and, from there, back to Europe to the OECD in Paris. She then crossed the English Channel to study at London School of Economics before returning back home to Iceland in 2013 to the University of Reykjavík where she founded the Iceland School of Energy. At that point in time, the Arctic Circle Assembly was opening new horizons, so Halla Hrund went to Harvard, Boston, Massachusetts to master Climate Change in the Arctic. “Climate Change in the Arctic is knocking at our doors. The effect of Climate Warming on people and the environment is escalating,” says Halla Hrund in an interview with the Icelandic Times. She is married to Kristján Freyr Kristjánsson, a company director, and they have two daughters, Hildur Kristín and Saga Friðgerður. Halla Hrund became Director-General of the National Energy Authority in June 2021. The first months have been dedicated to forming its future vision and organization chart.
Halla Hrund is the daughter of Logi Ragnarsson  and Jóhanna Steingrímsdóttir . Up to the age of 20, she spent practically every summer at Hörglandskot by Kirkjubæjarklaustur in the south of Iceland where her grandparents, Steingrímur Lárusson [1933-2014] and Anna Hildur Árnadóttir [1938-2018] ran a prize-winning farm. Her grandfather was a respected leader; district chief and staunch member of the Independent Party. “There was plenty to do at the farm, where I learnt to appreciate nature as well as horses, cows, sheep, and hay- making and developed a sense for the practical while getting the harvest into barn,” Halla Hrund says. After graduation, she spent three years in the Icelandic Embassy in Brussels introducing Iceland’s art and culture. In Togo, in West Africa, she taught university students and helped the local farmers. “I learnt to appreciate the importance of infrastructure. There were constant electrical breakdowns and darkness in Togo, a former French colony. However, going over the border to Ghana, the former British colony, there were no such problems as the infrastructure had been developed.”
“The farm back home opened my mind to the importance of nature and energy, Togo to the importance of eveloping infrastructure,” she says. She points to Iceland’s development, Reykjavík’s harnessing of Elliðaá-River in 1921 and Reykjavík’s Geothermal Energy; the heating of East Town School and the surrounding neighbourhood in Reykjavík in 1930, with geothermal water from Laugardalur. Then developing Mosfellsdalur’s bundant geothermal energy in the fifties, and the Glacial Thjórsá River in 1970 which turned Iceland from one of Europe’s poorest countries in the early 1900s to its place in the top ten at the end of the 20th century.
As Halla Hrund finished her studies in London, she took on the task of International Development at Reykjavík University in 2013, when President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson [1996-2016] was starting the Arctic Circle Assembly at the Harpa Convention Hall. Iceland became a melting pot of discussions and ideas concerning the Arctic as world leaders, scientists and just average people wanting change, came together. Halla Hrund seized the opportunity that President Grímsson had created by connecting the Arctic, Climate Warming, Green Energy and Nature. At the beginning of 2013, there were four students at Iceland’s School of Energy all having their picture in the University’s brochure. As the World in general does not appreciate the alarming seriousness of advancing climate changes, it was needed to get big players to the table of Arctic issues. Halla Hrund was offered a fellowship at Harvard University, being co-author of the paper “Iceland’s Energy Policy: Finding the Right Path
Forward”. She has taught at Harvard and internationally since 2012. At Harvard, she founded the Arctic initiative. The first Seminar of Innovation was held in 2018 with Halla Hrund and Dr. John Holdren, President Barack Obama’s scientific adviser, delivering lectures. Eric Schmidt, CEO and founder of Google [2001-2017], joined the Arctic Initiative bandwagon, being known for his support of innovation and initiators, as well as supporting the Arctic Circle Assembly. “Cooperation is the key to success, not size. No nation, no company, no
institution, or municipality can, on its own solve, the environmental issues we are facing. However, by working together, great things can be achieved,” says Halla Hrund. Among the lecturers in Boston is former UN Secretary, Ban-Ki-moon.
The Future is Green
At the start of the third decade of the 21st century, the Government of Iceland embraces new challenges and opportunities. “The Future is Green. My grandfather always waited rather impatiently for the milk bus to arrive with the post and the Independent newspaper, Morgunblaðið. Nowadays, information comes with speed of light.
Iceland faces immense opportunity, while the challenge is colossal,” she says. No country has consolidated into policy the climate, energy and environment. She points out that, in 1969, Neil Armstrong’s words from the moon echoed around the world: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” The United States was first to send men to the moon, winning the race against the Soviet Union. The moon landing was a historical landmark. Mankind is now at another watershed moment. “We are taking a giant leap. The Government looks to the climate in its ambitious Energy-Changing Policy. I welcome the Government prioritising these issues and merging the ministries of Energy, Climate and the Environment. Icelanders have the opportunity to be the first nation to become completely Green. We have the opportunity to be leading, by becoming 100% Green, bridging the 15%. Connecting energy, nature and climate is a unique opportunity Technological breakthroughs arrive at the speed of light, and it is of great importance to embrace changes with great care. “The National Energy Authority serves the people. We want to proceed in a responsible way as we establish its framework and supervision. It is of great
importance to declare to the world loud and clear: “Iceland’s policy is to utilise and protect the land and its nature. The hydro energy of waterfalls and geothermal energy are invaluable limited resources that need to be handled with care. We want to have the World’s Greenest Tourism, connecting agriculture and greenhouses. The demand is endless and needs to be defined in our nation’s interests. People need to see the benefits of our deeds and be assured that they will reap the benefits.” Halla Hrund walks along the old warm water pipelines to her National Energy offices at Grensásvegur in Reykjavík. She says that, at this epoch- changing moment in history, she often reflects back 100 years, when Icelanders were one of Europe’s poorest, then became sovereign, practically uneducated, yet started utilising their resources by harnessing waterfalls and warm water, putting engines in their boats and buying trawlers to fish the world’s richest fishing banks. “The nation had everything to
gain and took giants leaps. That should come easy now 100 years later,” she says.
Our cup of coffee
Halla Hrund’s career reflects Icelanders’ road to prosperity. As a child, she experienced the joys of life at her
grandparent’s farm, learnt to work, taking the experience to Reykjavík as she got her education, then going into the big world. Now, she’s finally back home working, once more, for Iceland. In eight years, the Iceland School of Energy has grown from four students to 600 focusing on the Arctic, where climate warming is twice as fast as in any great metropolis of the world. Her Arctic Initiative has grown and prospered. “Dramatic changes in the Arctic eco- systems, the acidification of oceans, the welfare of the inhabitants and animals and Arctic security are all pressing issues. We are running against time. This is our cup of coffee and we will not offer our descendants slouch,” says Halla Hrund Logadóttir.
-Interview by Hallur Hallsson