It is the Danish government’s clear opinion that the green road is the one we all need to travel eventually. There is no denying, that there are strong reasons for action. In the coming decades more and more people around the world will achieve the means to a modern lifestyle, that they aspire to.
The global need for energy will continue to rise as a car, a fridge, a city break will become part of the lifestyle of many more people. Our lifestyle has in the past been driven by cheap and easy access to oil, coal and natural gas. That road is not an option, which will be open to us in the future. We will face ever increasing pressures from the twin forces of climate change and the hunt for finite and ever more marginal sources of fossil fuel. One would think, that these two forces ought to be a sufficient spur for action.
The Danish government having seen the writing on the wall has set an ambitious target of weaning Denmark off fossil fuels by 2050. Heeding the words of Winston Churchill, that “however beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results”, the Danish government recently presented “Energy Strategy 2050”, also referred to by the Danish minister of Climate and Energy, Dr. Lykke Friis, as a declaration of energy independence – independence from oil, coal and gas.
The strategy clearly defines the first steps towards this ambitious target. Most importantly it will lead to a decrease in Danish dependence on fossil fuels by 33 % in the coming 10 years alone. From 1980 till 2010 the share of renewable energy in Denmark rose from 3 % to 19 %. With this strategy the rise will continue to 33 % by 2020, meaning a full third of our energy will be produced by green energy primarily wind and biomass. Nuclear is – it should be mentioned - not a part of the fossil free Danish equation.
How large a share of wind power is compatible with a stable energy system? In the case of Denmark, that ceiling has not yet been reached. By 2020 nearly half of Danish electricity will be provided by wind power alone. Another 20 percent will come from biomass.
By tying our electrical grid into a regional framework and by having a spare capacity backed by biomass, Denmark will continue to have a stable energy system.
Business, on the other hand, stands a great chance to move into the heavy league of successful super green companies. For instance, the energy efficiency measures a company makes are often paid back within few years. Onwards, the savings on the energy bill can be unleashed to strengthen the core business of the company. Likewise, there is an enormous global market for green technology, services and systems. This market is only going to grow once more governments follow in the carbon-light footsteps of Denmark.
But of course such a strategy would come at a great cost to Danish society? The answer is a resounding no. The expansion of renewable energy is financed by feed-in-tariffs paid by consumers of electricity, but the rising efficiency of renewable energy means, that the cost to consumers of 33 % renewable energy in 2020 will be lower than the 11 % provided in 2002.
So, interestingly, the transition is relatively cheap, and business competitiveness not harmed. The government’s estimates are a price tag of approximately 10 euro pr. household pr. month at the highest (2020), a price tag that will only slowly increase to this level. In the opinion of the Danish government this is a reasonable insurance policy against unexpected increases in fossil fuel costs and a solid investment in Denmark’s future energy security.