Denmark has officially enshrined their climate goals into law, as has been reported in several locations over the past 24 hours.
The official Danish Twitter account (@denmarkdotdk) linked to a post on website ‘tcktcktck.org’, confirming reports that the ruling party — the Social Democrats — along with the Conservative People’s Party, the Socialist People’s Party, and the Red-Green Alliance, had made the country’s climate goals a legislative reality.
Denmark have committed to reducing their country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2020. In December of 2013, wind power accounted for 55% of the country’s electricity — a first for any country.
Denmark has long been a powerhouse when it comes to renewable energy — most prominently thanks to their wind industry. A 2012 report from the American Wind Energy Association noted that the country acquired 26% of their yearly electricity demand from wind — a figure which will only have grown since then.
Denmark’s Climate, Energy and Building Minister, Rasmus Helveg Petersen, noted that the decision made it “truly a great day.”
“The broad agreement on the 40% reduction of greenhouse gasses, to ensure meeting the ambitious targets that the government has set, will continue, even after an election,” Petersen said. “The Conservatives have announced their commitment to an agreement among the parties who take responsibility for the climate.”
Hopefully decisions like this will push other countries in the European Union — and around the world — to similarly make climate goals more than simple PR stunts to attract voters. The need for legally binding decisions like this is paramount as we move forward.
Joshua S Hill I’m a Christian, a nerd, a geek, a liberal left-winger, and believe that we’re pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I work as Associate Editor for the Important Media Network and write for CleanTechnica and Planetsave. I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), Amazing Stories, the Stabley Times and Medium. I love words with a passion, both creating them and reading them.
Agreement in Denmark’s parliament this week cleared the way for passage of climate targets that would outstrip the recent goals set by the European Union.
The bill would establish a legally binding requirement that Denmark cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below 1990′s levels by 2020, and that the government return to the question every five years to set new 10-year targets. The legislation would also establish a Climate Council — modelled on a similar body in Britain — to advise the government on the best ways to continue reducing Denmark’s reliance on fossil fuels.
The bill is backed by the Social Democrats, the Conservative People’s Party, the Socialist People’s Party, and the Red-Green Alliance.
Denmark’s present and former governments have already committed the country to a goal of 100 percent renewable energy generation by 2050, and the new bill is seen as a concrete step to achieving that goal.
“This is a law to make Denmark low carbon society by 2050,” Mattias Soderberg, a senior climate advisor at DanChurchAid, a humanitarian organization in Denmark, told Responding to Climate Change. “With this law Denmark is starting to outline how this process will be done.”
A 40 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2020 is on par with carbon emission cuts the National Research Council advised America to take on in 2010. It’s also noticeably more ambitious than the target the European Parliament recently passed — to cut emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 — for the European Union as a whole.
The broader EU target remains non-binding until it’s approved by the governments of the individual countries that make up the group. And debate remains on exactly how the target should be divvied up amongst the member states. So Denmark moving forward with more ambitious cuts at the individual level would put it ahead of the curve set by most of its peers on the Continent.
Denmark is also part of the Emissions Trading System (ETS), Europe’s cap-and-trade system for cutting carbon emissions, which will likely serve as the main driver of both Denmark’s reductions and the EU’s as a whole. Unfortunately, the unexpected drop in economic activity from to the 2008 recession, along with some inherent design flaws, drove the price of carbon permits under the ETS to remarkable lows. That removed the incentive for firms in Europe to cut their carbon emissions, leaving the entire system stalled in limbo.
The ETS’ problems have served as a learning experience for other, newer cap-and-trade systems like California’s. And reforms are in the works in the EU to get the ETS back on its feet.
Meanwhile, Denmark has already been making substantial progress on the climate front. According to numbers that Responding to Climate Change pulled from the Danish Energy Agency, renewable energy accounted for 43.1 percent of Denmark’s domestic electricity supply in 2012, and for 25.8 percent of all energy consumption in the country that year. The year before that, renewables provided 23.1 percent of Denmark’s electricity consumption.
In December, wind power provided the country of Denmark with about 55% of its electricity. This is the first time that the wind-leading country (or any major country) has received over 50% of its electricity from wind power in an entire month.
Of course, wind power provided well over 55% of the country’s electricity during certain periods throughout the month. On December 1, it provided ~136% of the country’s electricity needs. During the week of Christmas, it provided 68.5%.
Denmark has a target of receiving 50% of its electricity from wind power on an annual basis by 2020. It looks like the country is well on its way to achieving that. The country also has a 2050 target of getting 100% of its energy from renewable resources.
Zachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.
On Tuesday the world’s largest and most powerful wind turbine swung into gear at the Danish National Test Centre for Large Wind Turbines in Østerild.
The prototype V164-8.0 MW wind turbine is 720 feet tall, has 260-foot blades, and can generate 8 MegaWatts of power — enough to supply electricity for 7,500 average European households or about 3000 American households.
A joint venture between Vestas and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the turbine is slated to go into production next year and was designed to take advantage of the growing offshore wind industry across Europe.
We have now completed the production, testing, and installation of the V164-8.0 MW as planned, thanks to the team’s intense effort during a time when Vestas has reduced its investments and lowered fixed costs.
We now look forward to evaluating the turbine’s performance on site. — Anders Vedel, Chief Technology Officer, Vestas
According to the European Offshore Wind Industry, 418 offshore turbines came online last year, providing 1,567 MW of capacity. That brought the total offshore wind capacity in Europe to 6,562 MW with just over 2,000 turbines, enough to provide 0.7 percent of the EU’s electricity.
The European Offshore Wind Industry estimates that by 2020 Europe’s offshore grid should have a capacity of 40 GigaWatts and by 2030 it should have 150 GW, enough to provide 14 percent of the EU’s electricity demand.
Vestas is Europe’s second leading wind turbine manufacturer, after Siemens, a German company. As of last year Vestas had installed 27 percent of Europe’s offshore wind turbines, or 547, compared to Siemens 1,249, or 60 percent.
On a small island off the coast of Denmark, a group of potato farmers have turned into power brokers, owning the wind turbines that have made their island a net energy producer.
In less than ten years, Samsø went from producing 11 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person per year, one of the highest carbon emissions per capita in Europe, to just 4.4 tonnes (the U.S. is at 17.6), and has proven that running on 100 percent renewable electricity is possible.
Denmark is a leader in renewable energy development
In March 2012, the Danish parliament passed a historic new energy agreement to bring the country closer to its target of 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.
The agreement set a goal for renewables to provide 35 percent of energy consumption by 2020, and including 50 percent of electricity from wind power. The country is well on its way there—it received more than 30 percent of its electricity from wind in 2012.
[This video was not part of the original article, but is placed here by the Editor for informational purposes]
Back in 1997, Denmark’s renewable energy ambitions, coupled with an oil supply crisis, prompted the Danish Ministry of Environment and Energy to hold a renewable energy contest. Competing islands had to present a convincing plan for converting their entire energy systems to renewables within ten years, in order to study how high a percentage of renewable energy a well-defined area could achieve with no major grant funding.
All the energy being used on Samsø (population: 4,100) was imported. An engineer thought the island would make a good candidate and submitted a plan. To the island residents’ surprise, Samsø won.
The island now heats 60 percent of its homes with three district heating plants running on straw, and one which runs on a combination of wood chips and solar panels. People outside of the heating plants’ reach have replaced or supplemented their oil burner with solar panels, ground-source heat pumps, or wood pellet boilers.
Eleven onshore wind turbines provide 11 megawatts of power, enough to power the entire electrical load of the island (29,000 MWh per year). And 10 offshore wind turbines produce 23 megawatts, enough to compensate for the carbon dioxide emissions generated by the island’s transport sector. This was all accomplished within eight years, two years ahead of schedule.
The most remarkable part about the transformation on Samsø is the involvement of the residents themselves—none of the projects have been imposed by outsiders or funded by major energy companies.
Local farmers own 9 of the 11 onshore turbines. The other two are owned by local wind cooperatives. Usually the wind turbine owner/shareholder realizes the initial investment in about eight years, and then starts earning a profit. One of the four district heating plants is also divided into shares and owned by local consumers.
At first, it wasn’t easy convincing this conservative island of farmers that they could, or even should, become a renewable energy showcase. NIMBYism, especially in regards to the proposed wind farm, affected many residents, just as it does in communities around the world. But Soren Hermansen, a local farmer and environmental studies teacher, took up the cause. He spent months going to community meetings and talking up renewables.
The key, according to Hermansen, was to convince Samsingers to participate themselves.
There was a certain fear that the project was just another hippie bureaucracy project sent out by some smart Copenhagen top-down politicians and consultants, Hermansen told RMI.
My job was to tear these presumptions apart and break it down to daily things that related to everyone in one way or another.
He coined a term “commonity”— a combination of community and commons—which he referred to in his persuasive discussions with the locals to get them on board with the idea of becoming investors in local energy resources.
By owning the turbines themselves, people didn’t feel as if the technology was imposed on them, but that they were making a smart business choice. They also came to realize the benefits that the green development would bring to the island as far as new jobs, new businesses, and increased business from more visitors.
The island’s tourism website, Visit Samsø, includes a major section on Samsø as a renewable energy island.
Samsingers now export millions of kilowatt-hours of electricity from renewable sources to the rest of Denmark. The Samsø Energy Academy, opened in 2007, is a source of renewable energy research, education, and training.
The academy arranges exhibitions and workshops that attract more than 5,000 politicians, journalists, and students from around the world every year. Researchers from both Danish and foreign educational institutions are able to do energy research at the Academy and island residents can get free advice on sustainable solutions. Furthermore, it functions as a conference center where companies, researchers, and politicians discuss renewable energy, energy savings, and new technologies.
Hermansen has since been named one of TIME magazine’s Heroes of the Environment, and travels around the world telling the story of Samsø’s success. He believes that Samsø’s progress can be a lesson for other places, even though it’s a small rural community.
Scaling can not be done the same way in a city, Hermansen admits.
But the lesson learned is that it is more about people, communication, and common interest than about technology. When you realize this, it is more easy to see the scalability.
Rocky Mountain Institute Since 1982, Rocky Mountain Institute has advanced market-based solutions that transform global energy use to create a clean, prosperous and secure future. An independent, nonprofit think-and-do tank, RMI engages with businesses, communities and institutions to accelerate and scale replicable solutions that drive the cost-effective shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. Please visit http://www.rmi.org for more information.