Denmark’s journey to 50% renewable energy by 2050

Denmark is relatively small, with a population of just over five million, and the country has set itself big targets for sustainability and renewable energy.

With capital city Copenhagen aiming for carbon neutrality by 2025 and Aarhus, the second-biggest city, targeting carbon neutrality by 2030, Denmark is making big steps towards achieving those goals.

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In 2015, renewable energy made up 56% of their energy mix, equating to a 6.6% drop in carbon emissions. More progress came in March 2017, when Denmark ran entirely on wind energy for a day, and for the first six months of the same year wind energy made up 45% of the energy mix.

Denmark was formerly dependent on oil as its primary energy source, so how did it become one of the more progressive countries in terms of sustainable energy?

In the 1970s, two oil crises which pushed up the cost of oil caused Denmark to consider the importance of energy security. Coal became more frequently used, and still is, but is expected to make up only 14% of the energy mix by 2025.

The fall of fossil fuels is mostly thanks to the considerable wind resource that Denmark has at its disposal, helping the country to transition so successfully to renewable energy sources (to learn more about wind resource, click here).

Through the 1980s and 1990s, issues around the environment, sustainability and climate change became serious public concerns. These factors, and the problem of energy security, helped to push renewable energy up the political agenda.

As a result, Denmark was spurred on to investigate and invest in alternative sources of energy; wind energy has become the favourite thanks to strong winds over the country as well as the Baltic and North seas which surround it.

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Denmark’s commitment to sustainable energy is complemented by the fact that increased renewable uptake has been matched by reduced energy consumption overall.

This reduction was achieved through Combined Heat and Power (CHP) generation, which captures waste heat from electricity generation processes. This is then used to supply heating to Danish homes and businesses via district heating. By 2013, this reduced energy consumption by 11%.

The use of CHP has also started a shift towards a decentralised energy system, with almost 100,000 solar panels installed across the country, according to a 2015 report by German think-tank Agora Energiewende.

The combination of these localised sources of generation is helping to reduce carbon intensity, and CHP uses a mixture of biogas and biomass.

Denmark is targeting a 34% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 (from 1990 levels); the use of biomass has been called “one of the largest CO2 reducing initiatives of the Danish Energy Agreement” by the Danish Energy Association. There is research on the use of biofuels for transport, too.

Ultimately, a combination of progressive policy and a diverse renewable portfolio has helped to push Denmark into such a promising position. With a clear commitment to sustainability, there’s no limit to what the country can achieve

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