Denmark's Push Towards 100% Renewable Energy

Jack Barber
December 10, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2016


Fig. 1: Photo of the Middelgrunden offshore wind farm, the second largest in Denmark. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)>

Regardless of what corrupt politicians or the big buck oil companies tell you, global warming is real and our species is the culprit. As we burn fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas, we are subsequently increasing the number of carbon dioxide (CO2) particles in the air, causing the Earth's temperature to rise. The worldwide effects of global warming have sparked developments of renewable energies. The use of renewable energy allows us to harness energy more efficiently without the detrimental effects of burning fossil fuels. Specifically, Denmark has been one of the world leaders and examples in pushing towards 100% renewable energy. What exactly has Denmark done to allow them to be at the forefront of the global renewable energy surge?


In October of 2014, Denmark laid out their goals to help them become the first fossil fuel free, 100% renewable energy country in the world. Denmark's long-term climate and energy goals include: 50% of electricity demands met by wind by 2020, a 40% reduction of domestic greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 by 2020, a complete phase-out of coal by 2030, 100% renewable energy in electricity and heating by 2035, and 100% renewable energy by 2050. [1]

Wind Power

A key component to achieving Denmark's goal of 100% renewable energy is through wind power. Denmark is fortunate enough to have extremely high wind speeds, allowing them to produce a fair share of their electricity through offshore wind farms. With renewables like wind power emerging over the last three decades, oil has played a much smaller role in Denmark's energy make-up. 20%, or 3,000 MW, of Denmark's energy is generated from Danish wind farms by converting the kinetic energy in the wind into mechanical power. While they are currently only harvesting around 3,000 MW, by 2030 the hope this number will double to 6,000 MW on the basis that the Danish government continues to incentivize companies to invest in wind power. [2] By the government giving companies a partial refund for the energy and levying certain taxes, the government hopes more large-scale wind farms will be produced by companies like Vestas Wind Systems and Siemens Wind in the near future. [3] Currently, Denmark has 13 of the worlds most high-tech wind farms, including Middelgrunden pictured to the right. Middelgrunden is the largest wind farm in the world based on cooperative ownership generating 40 MW with twenty 2 MW turbines. Fortunately for our environment, wind power is widely accepted in Denmark. Over 70% of citizens are in favor of installing more turbines throughout the country with only 7% being against the construction of more turbines. [4]

Combined Heat and Power

Another major player in Denmark's push towards 100% renewable energy is through combined heat and power (CHP). Currently, 12%% of Denmark's power is generated from biomass and organic waste in CHP plants. As Denmark continues to eliminate fossil fuels over the next few decades, the CHP production will certainly increase. CHP plants are extremely efficient, believed to be up to 60% more efficient than standard power plants because they generate both electricity and heat. [5]


In Denmark, climate change is viewed as fact, and as a result they are leading the charge towards 100% renewable energy. By realizing the harmful effects of fossil fuels, Denmark plans on increasing wind and CHP production by 2050 to fully cut out fossil fuels. With oil prices continuing to rise, countries like Denmark who are heavily invested in renewable energies will prosper while leaving a smaller carbon footprint. As inhabitants of this planet, it is our moral obligation to address climate change by fully transitioning to clean energy. We only get one planet.

© Jack Barber. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "Denmark's Commitment to 100% Renewable Energy," Greenpeace, 27 Oct 14.

[2] H. Lund and B.V. Mathiesen, "Energy System Analysis of 100% Renewable Energy Systems - The Case of Denmark in Years 2030 and 2050," Energy 34, 524 (2009).

[3] G. Klaassen et al., "The Impact of R&D on Innovation For Wind Energy in Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom," Ecol. Econ. 54, 227 (2005).

[4] J. H. M. Larsen et al., "Experiences from Middelgrunden 40 MW Offshore Wind Farm," Copenhagen Environment and Energy Office, 26 Oct 05.

[5] F. Whitehead, "Lessons from Denmark: How District Heating Could Improve Energy Security," The Guardian, 20 Aug 14.