A True ‘All Of The Above’ Energy Policy: Denmark Affirms Commitment To 100% Renewable Energy By 2050

A biogas facility in Denmark

Denmark is known for being a world leader in wind electricity. But there’s so much more to the country’s renewable energy sector that deserves attention.

A recent package of targets passed by the Danish parliament illustrates why diversity is key to a strong clean energy policy.

This week, lawmakers in Denmark agreed upon a new set promotion programs for efficiency and renewable energy that will put the country on a path to getting 100% of electricity, heat and fuels from renewable resources by 2050.

With a 50% wind penetration target, Denmark is still putting a lot of stock in wind. But the recent package is notable for its comprehensive approach to combined heat and power, biogas, geothermal heat pumps, and biofuels — with strong national financing mechanisms to tie all of these sectors together.

Of course, any good clean energy policy should aggressively promote efficiency. With a target for reducing final energy consumption 7% in 2020 compared with 2010 levels, Denmark is putting conservation and efficiency at the top of its priority list. Here are some of the initiatives just agreed upon:

  • Energy companies must realize specific energy savings exceeding today’s requirements, e.g. by consulting energy experts and by offering subsidies to e.g. households and businesses.
  • Energy companies must increase efforts by 75% from 2013 to 2014, and by 100% from 2015 to 2020 compared to 2010-12.
  • A comprehensive strategy for energy renovation of all Danish buildings will
    be developed.

The focus on industrial heating and cooling is also a major part of the plan. Here in the U.S., we tend to focus all our attention on electricity generation and almost no attention on thermal energy. But like other European nations, Denmark is ahead of the curve in encouraging changes in this sector. The plan includes:

  • Converting from coal to biomass at large-scale power plants will be made more attractive by amending the Heating Supply Act.
  • The smaller open-field plants that are struggling in the wake of high heating prices will be allowed to produce cheap heating based on biomass.
  • DKK 35 million will be committed to promoting new renewable technologies, e.g. geothermal energy and large heat pumps.
  • Banning installation of oil-fired boilers and natural gas boilers in new buildings from 2013.
  • Banning installation of new oil-fired boilers in existing buildings in areas where district heating or natural gas is available from 2016.
  • Committing DKK 42 million in 2012-15 to fund the conversion from oil-fired boilers and natural gas boilers in existing buildings to renewable energy.

The plan also focuses on industrial activities, using incentives and enforcement mechanisms to get large companies to make changes in their energy use:

  • A subsidy should be given to help promote investment in energy efficient use of renewable energy in the production processes of enterprises. In the period 2014 to 2020, the subsidy will be increased to DKK 500 million a year from DKK 250 million in 2013.
  • Funding of DKK 30 million per year from 2013 to 2020 will be introduced to maintain and promote industrial CHP in industries and greenhouses.

Incentives for biogas expansion, a national framework for a smart grid, and a renewed commitment to R&D for innovative energy technologies are part of the targets as well. This is about as “comprehensive” as a comprehensive clean energy plan gets.

Here in the U.S., we tend to focus exclusively on wind and solar. Considering that these are the two fastest-growing clean energy industries globally, that makes sense. But wind and solar are only one piece of a truly meaningful energy transition.

When we get serious about clean energy in this country, we may want to take a page from Denmark’s “all of the above” clean energy playbook and focus on under-served sectors that can have a major impact on energy use.

15 Responses to A True ‘All Of The Above’ Energy Policy: Denmark Affirms Commitment To 100% Renewable Energy By 2050

  1. Sasparilla says:

    Wow, what a great overall policy strategy (and individual points). Thank goodness there are still some folks really moving forward (on the needed timeline).

    Looking at it from here in the U.S. (with our current political system 1/2 of which doesn’t acknowledge climate change) it seems surreal. Their plans and execution will be very helpful (to be used against the naysayers) when we finally get serious (politically) here in the U.S. about climate change (who knows when that will be).

  2. prokaryotes says:

    List of countries by population
    Denmark is ranked 111th with 5.6 mil.

    This is nice if Denmark is doing the right thing, but we require the top 20 countries to do the same now.

  3. CW says:

    Awesome stuff. Here’s hoping that Denmark is not only the nation that gave us the modern wind turbine, but also the nation that showed us how to do a country-wide building energy renovation project. That’s mind blowing in its audacity. The world’s watching with great interest. (Unfortunately it’s watching too much … act more now!)

    I spent about a year in Denmark and learned far less than I should have about how it realizes the progress it does. In my defense, I don’t learn well when the sun doesn’t shine for most of the winter. That and it didn’t seem like anybody knew exactly how or why — “culture” and “values” being vague and fluid concepts that don’t adequately inform attempts to replicate.

    Figuring out just how it is that Denmark, or any jurisdiction anywhere for that matter, keeps on making progress would seem to me to be a worthwhile exercise for someone to either do or to share the results of here on CP. And no platitudes like ‘leadership’ please, unless after years of study that’s all you’ve got.

    To replay one of my favorite mental tapes, I will note that Denmark is a multi-party parliamentary state with proportional representation. It has had a long history of minority governments where parties have little chance at a winner-takes-all victory and so spend their time actually having to practice the politics of compromise. In what strikes me as a couple of facts that are highly related to that last sentence, they regularly get 85% voter turnout and have fairly high (you read that right) satisfaction ratings for their political institutions.

  4. quokka says:

    Not as “awesome” as you imagine. Refer to page eight of the Danish Energy Outlook 2011. The lions share of the purported renewables is biomass – now and increasing through 2025. It’s really not all about wind power.

    Ignoring for a moment the issue of whether this is environmentally desirable for Denmark, scaling such an energy mix up to a planetary scale is most likely infeasible and almost certainly undesirable in view of it’s gigantic land use requirements and the consequent grossly increased loss of habitat.

    And even then the full life cycle emissions saving from bio* (other than from waste) is questionable to say the least.

  5. Leif says:

    I think that the reason the United States focuses on wind and solar is because our capitalistic system tends to be top down solutions only. The rich want their piece of the pie first because that is where the most profit is for the top 1%. Bottom up solutions tend to be beneficial to the lower and middle class folks and not as profitable for the top tier. Take the profits out of the pollution and exploitation of the commons and distributed energy becomes better for the Nation but at the expense of high profit margins.

  6. David B. Benson says:

    As I suppose is well known, Denmark has the highest electricity prices in Europe while France is (nearly) the lowest. Why is that?

  7. Ian Perrin says:

    It’s because the low (near-zero) fuel costs of true renewables mean that the projects are capital intensive. Remember that these plans go to 2050. I’d bet Denmark is a long way down the list then, in terms of electricity prices.

  8. quokka says:


    Is the fuel cost of biomass irrelevant.

    Wind turbines only last about 20 years.

  9. Anne van der Bom says:

    A lot of the price difference is due to different taxing regimes. A political choice. Electricity is a free commodity in Europe that can be sold across the border.

    Ah, but by all means, let’s forget the billions of subsidy to the French nuclear energy sector!

  10. Tom Andersen says:

    Denmark has power that is 4 times dirtier than France, too. They could cut CO2 emissions in half by a switching their large coal plant to nat gas. But for political reasons they won’t. They don’t trust that gas will always arrive, and they went dark in 1973, so coal it is.

    When the wind blows – just wind turbines alone already oversupply the Danish market, so they are at the max on that.

    Natural gas co generation is really whats taking off there. With electricity so expensive, the upcoming rise of in home micro-cogen will be huge.

    So when electricity prices rise, people turn to natural gas. There is a limit to how far you can push anyone.

  11. Leif says:

    I want to see high energy prices that reflect the true cost of energy to the economies of the world. Fold in all the cost of social services as well. Everything from street sweeper to the industrial military complex, universal health care and government. The whole shebang! Then make distributed power available to all and freely traded. And NO MORE TAX! Of any kind. Want to burn 50g/h in your bimbo yacht, cool. You help pay for the wars that bring it to you shore. The mitigation of the pollution of the air, water, earth and oceans of the planet. All payed in cash up front, no debt to hand our children. Basically a universal new currency, BTUs… Use them you pay. Make them you earn. Green Energy wins hands down.

  12. john says:

    check out my all of the above rap about Obama’s energy policy:

  13. CW says:

    Your obviously right, but I choose to not make the perfect the enemy of the good. It’s a great start … and awesome relative to the good ol US of A with its “can’t do” spirit when facing this issue, at least at the federal level.

  14. Rural energy user says:

    Mainly because Denmark has about a 160% electricity tax and France has a state owned power company which can collect its money from taxpayers as well as consumers.
    Denmark even manages to put many of its lines underground to reduce visual impact, I wonder if France does.

  15. Aaron Beach says:

    The initiative seems rather light on demand-response related technologies. Considering that a variable generation technology will make up such a large penetration rate it will be important to match (or at least price) demand appropriately (or else 50% Wind penetration may be achieved very inefficiently?).