Green and prosperous? Denmark leads the way

The clean energy economy is busting out all over — at least in the absurdly crowded line waiting to get accredidation to attend the UNFCCC conference in Copenhagen.

Here is Steen Broust Nielsen of MAKE consulting on how Denmark is leading the way with wind power:

Not so coincidentally, one of today’s news clips, is a Boston Globe op-ed, “Green and prosperous? Denmark leads the way,” which I excerpt below:

WHEN PRESIDENT OBAMA joins the Copenhagen climate summit Friday, he will very likely sidestep congressional inaction on new energy legislation, committing our nation to a 17 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. On his return, Denmark’s vibrant economy and leadership in the battle against climate change should inspire him as he coaxes a recalcitrant Congress to adopt meaningful new measures to combat global warming.

Denmark awoke to the perils of foreign oil dependence when the 1973 Arab embargo delivered a body blow to its energy security. Oil – virtually all of it imported – met a staggering 90 percent of the country’s energy needs at the time. Denmark’s political leadership responded by setting the nation on a path toward energy independence, with dramatic and lasting results.

New homes in Denmark today are twice as energy-efficient as their pre-embargo counterparts. Waste heat from local power plants is used to heat Denmark’s houses and offices, boosting the energy efficiency of those plants from 40 to 90 percent. And with taxes on new cars and motor fuel among the highest in Europe, alternatives to automobile travel have flourished. In Copenhagen, a third of commuters travel by bike, their trips made safe and convenient by an extensive network of well-marked bike lanes.

All this energy-saving doesn’t seem to interfere with Danish productivity. To the contrary: Danes use less than half as much energy per capita as the average American, yet their gross national income per capita surpasses our own by a resounding 24 percent.

One area where Danes have truly excelled is in their pioneering commitment to wind energy. Starting in 1979, the Danish parliament voted to underwrite 30 percent of the initial cost of wind farms. A decade later these upfront subsidies were dropped, but the country continued to boost the technology by guaranteeing a subsidized rate for wind-generated electricity while mandating that utilities incorporate wind into their portfolios.

Today Denmark draws 20 percent of its electricity from wind energy, and the country’s wind industry employs about 26,000 people – nearly 1 percent of the workforce. Politicians across the political spectrum share pride in Denmark’s wind energy. Per Jorgensen, a parliamentarian with the Conservative People’s Party, trumpets his party’s advocacy for government-subsidized wind energy. Along with local jobs, he notes wind technology’s contribution to Danish exports – 7.2 percent of the total in 2008.

Parliament member Anne Grete Holmsgaard of the Socialist People’s Party agrees. She cites her party’s target of freeing Denmark from fossil fuels for electric power by 2035, and from fossil fuels for all uses by 2050.

Policy analysts and utility executives join Danish politicians in expecting wind to provide fully half of the country’s electricity within a decade or two. To reach this goal, a country whose Vikings once ventured seaward to plunder foreign lands now looks to its surrounding seas – the North Sea and the Baltic – as the next energy frontier. Already the world’s front-runner in per capita offshore wind power, Denmark is now commissioning new offshore projects at a breathtaking pace.

To ride out the inevitable fluctuations in wind-generated electricity, Denmark relies on a nimble Northern European power market, with grid interconnections extending throughout Scandinavia and down into Germany. When turbines are spinning out more power than Danish consumers need, electricity is marketed abroad. When winds are low, power from abroad – including Norway’s superabundant hydroelectricity – flows in to meet local demand.

The U.S. is finally making a good effort with wind, but now it’s China that is trying to leap-frog us (see “China begins transition to a clean-energy economy“).  The bottom line is that “The only way to win the clean energy race is to pass the clean energy bill.”

4 Responses to Green and prosperous? Denmark leads the way

  1. paulina says:

    That’s the spirit!

    I just also really love these “mouth videos.” Maybe they’re triggering a kind of combined lip-reading and listening? Whatever it is, the message is coming in loud and clear!

  2. Mark Shapiro says:

    While we can be green and prosperous with renewables like wind and solar, we get greener and richer faster with efficiency and conservation.

    Decarbonizing the global economy requires good technology and better policy. But we must always remind the doubters, delayers, and deniers that anyone can enrich themselves immediately and forever with a cornucopia of efficiency and simple conservation measures.

    We must remind people of this simple, critical truth because the last redoubt of the delayers and deniers is that green is expensive.

    (Note to Joe and friends: I keep harping on this point to try different rhetorical approaches. None of them have caught fire yet. I’ll keep trying.)

    (Note to self: maybe if I win Joe’s name-my-next-book contest I’ll get a clear shot at the rhetoric.)

  3. I am so tired of all the “do nothing clowns” who continue to claim that Going Green will cause us to lose jobs. Quite the contrary, we can clean up the planet while creating millions of jobs in the CleanTech sector.

    Just as we moved from trains to planes we can shift from dirty to clean!

  4. Wim Prange says:

    Conserve and Prosper