03.10.2012
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Energy transition

Denmark already has 40% renewable power

One reason why Germans believe they can switch to renewables so fast is that one of their neighbors, Denmark, proves that it can be done. At the end of September, the Danish Energy Agency announced that the country had crossed the 40% threshold for renewable power, making the share of green electricity in Denmark more than 50% greater than in Germany.

 -  The Danes are already global leaders in renewables, but the real challenge lies in renewable mobility.
The Danes are already global leaders in renewables, but the real challenge lies in renewable mobility.
Kaspar Duncam Gram/Technical Institute of Denmark

While Germany has an impressive 25% share of renewables in its power supply – up from 20% at the beginning of the year, an increase of 5% in only 6 months – the Danes already had 28.1% wind power alone in 2011, according to a press release published by the Danish Energy Agency at the end of September. As a share of energy consumption (including not only electricity, but also heats and motor fuels), renewables made up 23.6% of the pie.

The statistics are impressive because of the extent to which Denmark and Germany are switching to renewables with intermittent wind and solar power. Other countries, such as Norway and Austria, have traditionally had a much higher share of renewable power and renewable energy, but they base it largely on hydropower and biomass, which are dispatchable (within limits) but also not readily available everywhere.

The Danes have an impressive goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050 for all of their energy, not just electricity; in comparison, the German goal of 85% renewable power by 2050 pales in comparison. But the Danish experience is also different. As the Danish Energy Agency explains, “In 2011 Denmark was the only EU member state to be energy self-sufficient,” with energy production 10% higher than consumption in 2011. The main reason is the large amount of oil that the country has in the North Sea relative to its small population of around 5.5 million.

However, Danish oil production in the North Sea peaked years ago. Overall, oil production in the North Sea dropped in 2011 to around half the level of its peak year in 1996. While it is easy to get electricity from renewables, motor fuels are proving to be more challenging to replace at our current levels of consumption. Here, Denmark – like all other countries – has its work cut out for it if it wants to go 100% renewable over the next 38 years. The country is, however, one of the main sites for pilot projects pertaining to electric mobility, and the country's small area will mean that the limited range of electric vehicles will be less of a problem. (Craig Morris)

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