Energy Policy and Denmark
Appearing in the July 2004 issue of "The Utilities Journal", author David White responds to Steffen Nielsen's article appearing in the May 2004 issue extolling the success of wind generators in Denmark.
White contends that Nielsen tells only half the story by omitting many important aspects of the Danish program particularly the cost, annual availability and operability of wind generation. White concludes: "it makes no economic sense to progress an expensive and unpredictable power-generating technology in order to see a parallel carbon dioxide reduction goal when the evidence clearly indicates the objective will not be met."
During the 1990s, West Denmark experienced a revolution in its generating capacity.
Wind capacity grew from almost
nothing in the mid-1980s to
more than 60% of peak, local
consumption in 2002. Similarly,
the electricity generating
capacity of smaller,
decentralized CHP grew from
very small beginnings in the late
1980s to almost 50% of the six,
central CHP power plants that
supply all the major towns with
In a single decade, the nominal
generating capacity of West
Denmark more or less doubled.
In 2002, renewable, mostly wind
energy supplied the equivalent
of roughly 19% of West
Denmark’s consumption. This
will increase to 21%, or so,
There are about 2.7 million residents in West Denmark, so the number of
wind generators per head of population is 1.74 machines per 1000 people. In
the UK, this would amount to about 100,000. West Denmark is therefore the most intensely wind mill populated land on the
With limited reserves of only oil and gas and the perceived onset of global warming, Denmark has a great incentive to develop new technologies for exploiting alternative sources of renewable energy and reducing energy demand. One of its many options is the harnessing of wind energy - a route that it has explored in great detail. This report describes some serious problems encountered in the extensive deployment of wind turbines in Denmark, and briefly summarises published accounts of the experiences and opinions of variously implicated Danish and foreign organisations and bodies.
This paper analyses aspects of environmental policy in Denmark, including, among others, policy
on surface water quality, clean air and support for renewable energy, waste disposal and transport policy.
Environmental policies are an important priority in Denmark, with implementation often highly
decentralised, but in some cases environmental objectives have been pursued at what seems a high price,
perhaps through a wish to support the development of a domestic industry or to protect existing industry
from loss of competitiveness. The paper criticises some of the arguments used in favour of this high cost
approach in a number of contexts, including wind power subsidies, the carbon tax and the treatment of
nutrient discharges from agriculture. The paper also discusses a number of innovative and efficient
policies introduced or planned, for example the new approach to promoting renewable energy (including
wind power) through tradable “green certificates” and a CO2 trading scheme in electricity production. In
some areas, such as policy for non-hazardous waste, apparent expansion of the role of economic
instruments (through a series of differentiated taxes on disposal) seems to be dominated in practice by
quantitative targets which may not provide the best outcomes.
This addresses the most important challenges confronting Eltra, the Transmission System Operator in Western Denmark.
Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy in moving air into rotational energy, which in turn is converted to electricity. Since wind speeds vary from month to month and second to second, the amount of electricity wind can make varies constantly. Sometimes a wind turbine will make no power at all. This variability does affect the value of the wind power……
This ‘fact sheet’ is, on the whole, a comparatively fair report. The definitions provided for capacity factor, efficiency, reliability, dispatchability, and availability are useful. Its discussion of back-up generation, marginal emissions and Germany & Denmark, however, is disingenuous as is, to a lesser degree, its discussion of capacity factor and availability. IWA's comments (updated October '06) on these issues follow selected extracts from the 'fact sheet' below.