Seize the Energy Opportunity

COPENHAGEN – All eyes are now on Copenhagen, where the UN Climate Change Conference will take place in December. But there is another reason to look to Denmark. In order to meet the challenges of climate change and energy security, all actors must focus on the opportunities that lie in the broad and fundamental change that society must undergo. The Danish energy sector has already once turned a huge challenge into an opportunity.

When the first oil crisis hit in 1973, Denmark was 90% dependent on oil and over 90% of that oil was imported. Such a situation was not sustainable. A national consensus emerged from the crisis that Denmark’s energy sector had to be transformed in order to secure future energy supply.

So Denmark started exploring for oil and gas in the Danish part of the North Sea. Coal and gas replaced oil in power plants and major programs to improve energy efficiency were launched. Today, Danish power plants are among the world’s most efficient with efficiency rates around 45%. If all power plants had such efficiency-levels, global power plant CO2-emissions could be reduced by 30%. Many plants were converted to allow them to produce power and district heating at the same time. This elevated power plant efficiency to 94%. Danish energy consumption has remained almost stable since 1981 due to such initiatives while GDP has risen by 70 %.  

Energy producers also started to use large quantities of CO2-neutral biomass on power plants. Finally, Denmark started to develop wind energy, which today accounts for 20% of Denmark’s power production.