Monday, October 01, 2012

The Unsquared Circle in Denmark

windmill

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.

3 comments:

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.