The Renewable Energy Potential of Denmark

In the United States, even the most basic programs for encouragingrenewable energy and sustainable business have a hard time making itthrough Congress. On the other side of the Atlantic, however, westernEuropean countries are lining up to demonstrate that how industrializednations can build up their economies with renewable power. Justmeans has already covered some of the major sustainable business innovations incountries like Portugal, Italy, and Germany. Now it seems as if Denmark could become the next European nation totake up a true leadership roll in the transition to clean energysources.

Tomorrow Denmark’s Commission on Climate Change Policy is set to publish a report on the potential for repowering Denmark with non-fossil fuelbased energy. Yet even though it hasn’t yet been officially released,media sources are already picking up the story that the report willrecommend a shift to 100% renewable energy by the year 2050. TheCommission on Climate Change apparently feels wind energy holds the most potential for development—and that makes sense, considering Denmark is a peninsula nation with vast offshore wind resources. The report alsoadvises meeting a significant portion of Denmark’s energy demand withbiofuels.

To be sure, Denmark is hardly a stranger to sustainable business andinitiatives designed to reduce fossil fuel consumption. The city ofCopenhagen is widely known as one of the most bicycle-friendly urbancenters in the world, and the Danish company Vestas is an importantplayer in the international wind energy market. Denmark’s island ofSamso is already powered completely by renewable energy sources. Yet tomake a complete break with fossil fuels, the national government willneed to do even more.

Specifically, the Commission on Climate Change recommends Denmarkchannel half a percentage point of its GDP into developing renewableenergy. It also lays out forty suggestions for measures the countryshould take to encourage sustainable business. These recommendationsinclude further developing offshore wind resources, making moreefficient buildings that cut back on ratepayer electricity bills, andinvestigating new sources of alternative energy. By following theseguidelines, the report maintains, Denmark can sever ties with fossilfuels within the next four decades.

Of course recommendations do not necessarily translate into action, andthe onus is now on the Danish government to translate proposals intopolicy. This November Denmark will release a new strategy to reduceclimate change and ramp up domestic renewable energy—and the governmentwill hopefully incorporate the Climate Change Commission’s suggestionsinto its strategy. If this happens, Denmark may solidify its position as a leader in the increasingly competitive clean tech field. It will also up the stakes for countries like the United States, which have yet tomake such a concrete commitment to sustainable business.

Nick Engelfried is a freelance writer on climate and energy issues,and works with campuses and communities in the Pacific Northwest toreduce the causes of climate change.




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