In 1973, during the Yom Kippur war, Denmark was 98% dependent on foreign oil for its power. Today, thirty-two years later, the country derives 21% of its energy from wind and is a net exporter of energy. How’d they do it?
From a lecture by Svend Auken, a member of the Danish Parliament and former Minister for Energy & Environment:
After the ’73 oil crisis, Denmark got real about energy. First, they focused on energy use, by requiring greater energy efficiency in buildings through insulation and energy audit requirements. Second, they invested in district heating systems, in which electricity producers capture “waste” heat created during power generation and distribute the heat to homes and buildings for use as a heating source. Third, they made a commitment to developing clean, renewable energy, and now provide 40% of the world’s wind energy, generating $4 billion turbine technology exports and creating 23,000 jobs in the process.
Auken is the kind of erudite yet personable politician who can make you swoon. He frames clean, renewable energy as a means to address the triple challenges of security, economic prosperity and climate change. He understands the political power of renewable energy, seeing it as an opportunity to build urban-rural connections. Finally, he envisions the pathway to a bright green future, saying that “it need not be dull, it need not be boring, we don’t have to give up our lifestyle, we just have to be a little bit more smart about how we live.”
Denmark is not an energy utopia. Part of their pathway to energy independence has been lined by aggressively pursuing oil drilling in the North Sea. But Svend describes a Danish society that is looking forward rather than towards the past. They appear to have incorporated the clean, renewable ethos into the fabric of their society and have committed to invest $1 billion in tidal, solar and fuel cell technology R&D over the next ten years, an investment which should dramatically boost their renewable portfolio and presumably their exports to a world market hungering for renewables.