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.