Policy - Denmark to focus on offshore generation

DENMARK: Offshore wind is set to form the cornerstone of an energy revolution that will see wind energy account for 60-80% of Denmark's electricity needs by 2050, according to a report released by the government-appointed Commission on Climate Change Policy.

Denmark sources 20% of its electricity from wind but the vast majority of this is onshore. Offshore projects include the Horns Rev I and II projects, which total 369MW; the 400MW Anholt project; and the 166MW Rodsand I wind farm. E.on brought the 207MW Rodsand II project online in October. All these projects have been sponsored by the government.

The report calls for the development of 200MW of offshore wind a year from 2015 to 2025. By 2050, the country will need 10-18.5GW of wind capacity, the commission concludes.

"We need so much more wind power and it is just not feasible that we will get that much more on land. We do still think land is important but the situation is reasonably well in hand, which is why we have not come with any recommendations there," says commission chair Katherine Richardson.

Wind is favoured by the report as the most cost-effective renewable energy. Electricity will form the hub of the new energy system, meeting 40-70% of Denmark's energy needs compared with just 20% today. Bioenergy is also central to the plan, supplying fuel to the transport sector and providing crucial backup when energy needs are high.

Increasing energy efficiency in buildings and cars will be a key element in helping to stave off unwanted price hikes for businesses and consumers, the report says. Danish homes will be heated by wind-powered electric pumps, with so-called "intelligent" solutions ensuring optimal energy storage when winds are high.

Controversially, the report also recommends imposing a tax on fossil fuels in order to create a financial incentive for switching to renewable energy sources.

Richardson is confident that many of the report's 40 recommendations will be adopted as official policy when the Danish government presents its new energy strategy before the end of the year. "It has been received very positively. The government is already using the report as a kind of advertisement for Denmark," she says.

Danish local authorities have already set aside land for the construction of onshore wind farms with a combined capacity of 1GW, according to new figures compiled jointly by the Danish Environmental Planning Agency and domestic interest groups.

Climate and energy minister Lykke Friis has praised the report, but she also stresses that the government would need to carefully analyse the commission's findings before pushing ahead with any of its proposals.

"It is imperative for the government that the transition to a society that is independent of fossil fuels does not come at the cost of competitiveness and employment," she says.

Richardson says she "could not agree more" with the minister's assessment, although she acknowledges that it was mainly intended as a means of assuaging the fears of the industrial sector.

"It all boils down to this: do we send our energy money to the Middle East, or would we rather use that energy money here in Denmark, creating Danish jobs and building Danish infrastructure"? she continues.

According to the commission's own calculations, described by Richardson as conservative, the net cost of Denmark's transition to green energy would only marginally outweigh the cost of continued dependence on oil, gas and coal.

The report has garnered widespread support in Denmark, but much of the domestic debate since its publication at the end of September has centred on the notion of introducing a tax on fossil fuels.

"Industry does not like that idea at all. But if you want people to choose something besides fossil fuels then you have to somehow make it unattractive to choose fossil fuels," says Richardson.

She notes that the Confederation of Danish Industry had otherwise been positive about the report.

"I think we will probably find a way to get the market to help us make this transition, even if it is not a fossil-fuel tax in the very near future," Richardson adds.

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