Denmark’s transition to renewable energy is an inspiration to countries around the world, looking to implement their own sustainable programs to decrease reliance on fossil fuels. With more than 45 per cent of Denmark’s total electricity powered by wind in 2016, and an entirely self-sustainable island off the country’s coast, the stage is set for Denmark to continue on its path to eliminate the need for other sources of energy.
In fact, Denmark has made a commitment that by 2020, 50 per cent of the entire country’s electricity output will be powered by wind. A lofty goal that doesn’t seem so lofty when you consider that just last month, Denmark’s turbines produced enough electricity to provide power to the whole country.
“It’s very impressive, but what it demonstrates is that renewable can truly be a solution to Europe’s needs,” said Wind Europe spokesman Oliver Joy. “Denmark is just the latest example that we have seen in the latest months.”
Denmark has been an example in transitioning from traditional, fossil fuel-based energy supplies to more sustainable sources since 1997, when the island of Samso embarked on a realistic plan to become a society based entirely on renewable energy. Today, the island runs off entirely self-supplied renewable energy from wind turbines that generate 100 per cent of the community’s consumption, and boilers, heat pumps, and solar thermal energy to heat each home.
According to Søren Hermansen, director of Samso Energy Academy and head of the renewable energy project, the key to the island’s success was showing residents how they can be actively involved in ensuring the sustainability of their homes.
“It is pure psychology and easy to understand,” he said. “We saw that people ‘bought into’ this new concept of potential jobs, green energy for heating, electricity from wind power, or just the social dimension of meeting with the community. You can say we recreated community by addressing the interest of the commons (being wind, solar, and biomass) and leaving the ownership to the community.”
Although Australia’s renewable energy projects have faced problems with blackouts caused by severe weather, Hermansen said it is possible to create a stable system without relying on coal-fired power. Denmark is leading by example, inspiring renewable energy projects across the country and the rest of Europe.
“In 2016, we saw the UK was powered without coal for 12 and a half hours, Germany went some days on renewable, and Portugal went four straight days on renewable,” said Joy. “It shows energy transition is underway in Europe and arguably further ahead than anywhere else in the world.”
With more and more projects popping up in Australia, like peer-to-peer energy markets and decentralized electricity grids, consumers are seeing more opportunities to participate in their energy systems – contributing to solar projects in their communities, or installing their own rooftop panels. However, Australia’s ongoing debate about the necessity of fossil fuels to stabilize the electricity system, Hermansen said, is unfounded – Samso enjoys a very stable supply of completely renewable energy.
“I have to go to Australia to deal with a blackout, we never have blackouts, this is not bragging,” he said. “We have a very powerful grid – we don’t experience any failure.”