Will the Danish accept their country's switch to renewables?
Four and a half decades after setting their goal, today Denmark is ready to completely move to renewable energy.
Denmark’s path towards renewable energy began in the 1970s with the energy crisis, writes Stephanie Joyce in her article for the Rocky Mountain PBS iNews. At that time, Denmark used too much imported oil in its power plants. Then the oil embargo came and the price of crude skyrocketed. For the Danish, the whole ordeal was a disaster.
“Out of the crisis, a policy direction emerged for the country. Initially, the government promoted energy efficiency and switching to coal-fired power plants, since coal didn’t have the same supply chain issues as oil. But Denmark doesn’t have its own coal reserves either, and as climate change became a concern and technology improved, the country saw an opportunity to use an abundant domestic natural resource: wind,” writes Joyce.
Since then, Danish energy policy has not changed despite having gone through conservative and liberal governments.
Joyce outlines the main reasons why Denmark was able to achieve a long term consensus regarding energy policy. “Denmark has achieved this remarkable consensus on energy policy in a few ways. First, demographics: the country is smaller than West Virginia, and has 5 million people, compared to 320 million in the U.S. Second, a tiny fossil fuel industry. Denmark doesn't have much in the way of coal, oil and natural gas, so there’s been little pushback from those industries as the country has shifted away from fossil fuels. Consensus is a big reason why the country’s renewable sector is so well developed,” she writes.
However, there are technological and social challenges Denmark faces as it switches to renewable energy. The first problem is grid stability. Keeping the grid balanced “while increasing the amount of renewable energy to its current level of almost half the country’s power supply,” has been a challenge.
To answer this challenge, the Danes built a massive transmission system to import and export power to other countries. These other countries include Sweden, Norway and Germany. The Danes still have to figure out energy storage. In essence, they need a smart grid.
“There have been several test projects in Denmark, including the EcoGrid EU project profiled by Inside Energy, but widespread commercial deployment is still a way off,” writes Joyce.
[related: Top 10 Energy Breakthroughs]
The social challenge is getting Danes to embrace renewable energy.
“Christensen argued that in the past, they focused too much on developing the technical solutions, and not enough on convincing people they’re necessary – something that's a problem in the U.S., too. Electric cars and smart thermostats exist, but for most people, it's not clear why they should buy them. Dansk Energi has hired anthropologists and social scientists to figure out how to convince people, but Christensen expects it will take time, maybe a decade or more,” writes Joyce.
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All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.