Empty declaration of intent

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The release of Denmark's long awaited Energy Strategy 2025 provides no further clarity on whether politicians want to further develop the country's wind power industry or let it whither, says Bjarne Lundager Jensen, director of the wind turbine manufacturers association. The plan had been eagerly awaited. It should have detailed Denmark's energy and environment policy for the next 20 years -- and the national wind industry had expected to have a major role in that strategy as producers of the most efficient generation technology for achieving CO2 emission reductions. More than 50% of Denmark's carbon reduction commitments are today provided by wind power.

The government, however, in the words of the opposition Social Democratic party's environment spokesmen Torben Hansen, has decided to "leave it up to the oil sheiks to decide whether Denmark should further develop renewable energy."

Except for a desire to provide the first transmission cable linking the mainland western half of the country to the island of Zealand and the metropolis of Copenhagen to the east, Conservative energy minister Flemming Hansen failed to back-up his declaration of intentions with firm goals. The new cable will increase security of supply and level the price difference in electricity between the two halves of the country, which generates most of its wind power in the west. Wind meets about 20% of Denmark's annual electricity demand.

According to Hansen's declaration, development of renewable energy, which the government wants to see more of, "must occur within the actual economic framework conditions." In other words, if oil prices continue to rise along with the cost of carbon emission allowances, there will be more use of wind power and biomass generation. In addition, the development of new and less polluting energy technologies is to be strengthened to increase energy efficiency -- and energy consumption should be managed to follow production.

One of the few concrete proposals is to better utilise Denmark's widespread combined heat and power (CHP) production. Demand for heat from CHP plant in winter means that electricity is generated whether it is needed or not, also if it costs more to produce than the market is offering when demand is low. Excess power is at times given away on NordPool, the Scandinavian power exchange, particularly if the country's wind power fleet is also generating well. This waste of resources can be avoided by using excess electricity to heat water for the country's district heating systems. For well over a decade, government policy has been to drive the development of CHP by banning the use of electricity to heat water; district heating is run purely on wastewater from electricity generation. The government will now consider changing that policy.

From Denmark's wind turbine owners association, Asbjørn Bjerre says it is essential for politicians to assume responsibility for Danish energy supply. More use of wind power will not happen just because oil prices rise. In a strong criticism of Energy Strategy 2025, the association's magazine writes: "If oil prices rise sufficiently high enough, wind power will end up providing no less than 80% of Denmark's electricity, guesses the government based on nothing more in the way of documentation than a table it has drawn. On that basis the government supports the continuation of the 'good economic framework for market oriented development of renewable energy.' Since January 1, 2003, that framework has not delivered one new wind turbine in Denmark."

Possible concrete goals for energy development will now be discussed by government and parliament.

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