By the people for the people -- Danish offshore ownership model

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The ownership model behind Copenhagen's 40 MW Middelgrund offshore wind plant -- with stakes in it shared equally between citizens and the local electricity company -- is so successful it deserves repeating. So say both Denmark's major utilities, Elsam in the west and E2 in the east. They have agreed with the wind turbine owners association to repeat the model, thereby giving the people of Denmark the opportunity to participate in ownership of future offshore wind plant. These are being built under an agreement between government and the utility sector for development of a total of 750 MW of offshore demonstration projects.

The agreed model rests on Denmark's tried and tested tradition of co-operative ownership of commonly used services, from farm shops and freezer houses in the old days, to wind plant ownership over the past two decades. This Danish co-operative spirit has superseded popular participation in ownership of the country's wealth through trading on the nation's stock exchange. Every twentieth family in Denmark today owns a wind turbine, or part of one, many of them as members of co-ops. The widespread ownership of the country's wind turbines has ensured widespread popular support for wind development.

The utilities and the owners association are positively inclined towards a co-operative ownership model for the 450 MW of wind plant to be built on Omø Stålgrunde in the Great Belt between the two halves of Denmark, off the island of Læsø in the Kattegat, and on Gedser Rev (reef) south of the island of Falster. These projects are being jointly developed by E2, Elsam, and the wind turbine owners association, which represents the interests of coming offshore wind co-operatives.

Any agreement for people-participation in offshore wind plant ownership is also to include a couple of the around 80 Vestas 2 MW turbines to be built on Horns Rev off the west coast of Denmark next year -- the first of the five planned offshore plant -- and between five and eight of the 75 turbines planned for Rødsand, south of the island of Lolland.

Realisation of the ownership plan is now up to the politicians and parliamentary agreement on allowing individual investor participation in offshore wind. The aims of the proposed model are to secure the continued popular support of wind power in Denmark, to keep alive the tradition of popular ownership of wind plant in a period when development ashore is expected to stagnate, to carry out the ideal of the "think globally, act locally" environmental movement, to find out if there is any private investor interest in offshore wind power, and to test different concepts for offering a slice of ownership where the output corresponds to a household or company's electricity consumption.

Time limited ownership

For at least the first two wind plant -- at Horns Rev and Rødsand -- the entire development and choice of turbines will be in the hands of Elsam and E2. Discussions are ongoing regarding the potential for re-purchase, at a fixed price, of the co-operatively owned turbines in each plant after 15-20 years of operation. The aim is to remove the burden of responsibility for the experimental nature of the demonstration projects from co-operative members.

For the final 450 MW of offshore development in three further projects, the aim is for Elsam and E2 to equally share the projects with the owners association to allow for early private investor involvement. If the third share intended for the co-operative failed to attract enough co-op members to make the project viable, Elsam and E2 would step in and make up the missing investment. Denmark's wind turbine ownership association is currently investigating various co-operative ownership models to see which would be most suitable.

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