As nations across the globe prepare for December’s negotiations to limit emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases that cause climate change , we need only to look at the host country as a model for a strong, low carbon economy. Since 1990, Denmark has grown its economy by 45 percent while energy consumption has remained constant and CO2 emissions have fallen by 13 percent. The efficiency and renewable energy industries are thriving, providing 11 percent of total Danish exports and contributing to Denmark’s relatively high GDP and low unemployment. Specifically, Denmark has focused on combined heat and power, wind energy, building efficiency, and, most recently, electric vehicles, among numerous strategies to reduce carbon emissions and enhance the Danish economy.
Combined Heat and Power (CHP)
In the United States, most electricity is generated by thermal power plants, which have an average efficiency of 30-33 percent because two-thirds of the energy used is released in the form of waste heat. Combined heat and power (CHP) captures this heat and typically distributes it to nearby buildings through a network of pipes known as a district heating system to provide both space and water heating. CHP systems operate at efficiencies as high as 90 percent, meaning total energy consumption and C02 emissions are lower compared to systems that produce heat and electricity separately. CHP plants provide 53 percent of Denmark's electricity and 80 percent of district heating.
Wind energy (produced both on land and offshore) accounts for 19 percent of total electricity production in Denmark, compared to about 1.3 percent in the United States. In 2012, Denmark expects offshore wind capacity to be three times the current level of 420 megawatts. Denmark has become a world leader in wind turbine production, manufacturing one-third of all wind turbines for the global market. Many wind turbines in the United States are produced by Danish manufacturers.
According to the Danish Energy Agency, houses built in 2008 use half as much energy per square foot as houses built before 1977, leading to significant cost-savings for consumers. Denmark achieved this impressive gain in efficiency through strict building standards, a labeling system for energy-efficient appliances, public awareness campaigns, a requirement that energy certificates be included with the sale of houses, and other residential and commercial efficiency policies.
The Danish Energy Agency has invested 35 million Danish kroner (approximately $7 million) as part of a four-year test program studying the best way to deploy electric vehicles on a large scale. Widespread deployment of electric vehicles will significantly reduce Denmark’s use of foreign oil and potentially will facilitate the integration of more wind energy into the grid by providing battery storage for this intermittent resource.
Environmental and Energy Study Institute
(EESI) and the
Embassy of Denmark
will host a
on Tuesday, November 24 to further explore the relationship between Denmark’s prosperity and its bold carbon reduction initiatives. Speakers include Søren Jensen, Deputy Chief of Mission, Danish Embassy; Adam Monroe, President, Novozymes North America; Michael Davidsen, Washington Manager, COWI Group; and Greg Towsley, Director for the Innovation Platform "Zero-Impact of Commercial Buildings in the USA", Grundfos Management A/S.