Denmark: A small nation with big goals

Denmark is a small nation showing a big commitment to renewable energy with an aim to be completely free of fossil fuel generation by 2050.

Denmark is continuing to show great progress through a combination of expanding offshore wind power combined with transition to 'smart grid', high vehicle taxes and energy conservation initiatives. Denmark is well on its way to becoming the energy leader of the EU.

In the early 1970s imported oil supplied 92% of Denmark's energy. Today Denmark's electric grid is over 40% renewably powered, and the country is aiming to reach 100% renewable electricity by 2035 and 100% renewable energy in all sectors by 2050. Denmark also plans to reduce its domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2020 relative to 1990 levels-without the use of carbon credits-ten years ahead of the proposed EU target.

Denmark is fortunate to have extremely good wind speeds-averaging 7.6 meters per second (California's Altamont Pass wind farm sees 5.3 to 7.1 m/s, and power output rises as the cube of windspeed).

The country has a goal for windpower to supply 50% of electricity consumption by 2020, and it is well on its way. In 2015, wind power supplied 42% of domestic electricity consumption.

Denmark was the first country in the world to build massive offshore wind farms, installing a 5 MW wind farm two kilometers from the coastline in 1991. Since then the country has installed four other offshore wind farms bringing offshore wind capacity to 1,271 MW.

The country also has over 300 onshore wind turbines bringing total wind capacity as of January 1, 2016 to 5,070 MW. To reach its goal of 50% wind power by 2020, the country has an initiative to deploy an additional 1,000 MW of offshore and a further 500 MW of nearshore wind turbines, while replacing old onshore wind turbines with new higher-capacity ones.

In order to avoid any potential local opposition to the onshore wind farm, the Danish government implemented various regulations to help with public acceptance. For example, residents are compensated if a property loses value due to wind turbines, the local community receives a payment per megawatt-hour of power generated, and at least 20% of the shares in a wind farm must be offered to local residents.

A fossil-fuel-free future

In its 2014 report, the Danish Energy Agency laid out four scenarios on how to be fossil fuel free by 2050:

  • Wind scenario: primarily wind, solar PV, and CHP deployment, including massive electrification of the heat and transport sectors
  • Biomass scenario: CHP for electricity and district heating.
  • Bio+ scenario: Replacing coal, oil, and natural gas with bioenergy. Wind energy remains at 2020 level (50% of electricity).
  • Hydrogen scenario: Highest wind deployment of any scenario along with hydrogen production.

The country does face challenges ahead. "The continued governmental support around Europe to renewable energy with zero marginal costs drives conventional units out of the market and will make the pricing of electricity a strange business", Parbo told RMI.

"This also means that the ability to supply enough electricity in periods with no wind and no solar production will become the main future challenge."

But the main conclusion of the Danish Energy Agency's report is that it is technically feasible for the Danish energy system to be 100% fossil fuel free. And it's well on its way.

Source: The Ecologist

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