Skip to main content

The Unsquared Circle in Denmark


A Danish windmill - in Iowa

Denmark’s current energy goal is much more easy to achieve than it would be for many other countries:
The share of renewable energy sources in Danish power supply is set to rise from 40 percent in 2011 to 69 percent by 2020, Denmark’s Energy Agency said on Sept. 28.
Why easier? Well, Denmark has about 5.5 million people, with 20 percent of them in or near Copenhagen, the capital. Still, given that hydro is tapped out, that leaves intermittent wind and solar energy to take up the cause. And really, they can’t. So what to do?
Denmark is planning to link its electricity market to other countries as it prepares for the growing role of intermittent renewable sources of power.
I suppose you could ding Denmark for taking the “green” route domestically while still getting the electricity it needs from its neighbors. It certainly makes the positive, feel-good profile of the plan murkier.
The loss of coal generation will make Denmark particularly dependent on power imports during peak load periods, such as cold and dark winter afternoons, [Peter] Meirbom [of the Danish Energy Association] said. To counter that, Denmark needs more cross-border cables…
To nuclear facilities operating in Sweden and Finland, perhaps? That’s not even a major point, much less major snark. The issue here is that Denmark is abandoning its self-contained electricity grid to achieve a goal that should enhance energy independence.

The drive to renewable energy in Denmark depresses electricity prices and makes coal-fired generation unprofitable. (Natural gas isn’t as inexpensive in Europe as here.) One might find that a desirable outcome all around, but coal can operate all the time and most renewable energy sources cannot – if Denmark doesn’t want to go dark, it needs to look outside its borders for electricity.

Let’s call this the unsquared circle, as the production of more electricity technically leads to less electricity practically. Obviously, Denmark’s neighbors are not rogue nations, but going from self-sufficient to a net importer of electricity is not a net economic plus, however benign. Sweden and Finland have nuclear energy plants that will allow them to avoid this issue – but Denmark does not.


Anonymous said…
One thing to remember is that Denmark is essentially an interconnection between Norwegian and Swedish hydrpower and the southern European market. This is really the only thing that makes Danish windpower viable. They simply hitch a ride on the power flows to the south from hydropower in Scanadavia. There are interconnects to allow northward flow of power from generators in southern Europe to the Nordic countries in dry years, if hydropower should lack.

Denmark's electricity system is tiny compared to its trading partners. If necessary, essentially all demand in Denmark could be met by power exports from Norway and Sweden. Such is not the case with almost all other countries in Europe, except for maybe places like Luxembourg and Liechtenstein.
SteveK9 said…
Good point by anonymous. If Denmark's neighbors had the same policy as Denmark, it wouldn't work, although Denmark is continuously held out as an example. Also, they have the most expensive electricity in Europe, I believe.
Don Kosloff said…
When the Swedes shut down the Barsebäck nuclear power plant, Sweden went from a net energy exporter to a net energy importer. Some of their import sources were coal plants in Denmark.

Popular posts from this blog

A Billion Miles Under Nuclear Energy (Updated)

And the winner is…Cassini-Huygens, in triple overtime.

The spaceship conceived in 1982 and launched fifteen years later, will crash into Saturn on September 15, after a mission of 19 years and 355 days, powered by the audacity and technical prowess of scientists and engineers from 17 different countries, and 72 pounds of plutonium.

The mission was so successful that it was extended three times; it was intended to last only until 2008.

Since April, the ship has been continuing to orbit Saturn, swinging through the 1,500-mile gap between the planet and its rings, an area not previously explored. This is a good maneuver for a spaceship nearing the end of its mission, since colliding with a rock could end things early.

Cassini will dive a little deeper and plunge toward Saturn’s surface, where it will transmit data until it burns up in the planet’s atmosphere. The radio signal will arrive here early Friday morning, Eastern time. A NASA video explains.

In the years since Cassini has launc…

Sneak Peek

There's an invisible force powering and propelling our way of life.
It's all around us. You can't feel it. Smell it. Or taste it.
But it's there all the same. And if you look close enough, you can see all the amazing and wondrous things it does.
It not only powers our cities and towns.
And all the high-tech things we love.
It gives us the power to invent.
To explore.
To discover.
To create advanced technologies.
This invisible force creates jobs out of thin air.
It adds billions to our economy.
It's on even when we're not.
And stays on no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.
This invisible force takes us to the outer reaches of outer space.
And to the very depths of our oceans.
It brings us together. And it makes us better.
And most importantly, it has the power to do all this in our lifetime while barely leaving a trace.
Some people might say it's kind of unbelievable.
They wonder, what is this new power that does all these extraordinary things?

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.


The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.

What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…