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Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Perfect Plan, a Certain Illusion

Funny thing, different perspectives. 
Ran across this headline in the February issue of Biomass Power and Thermal magazine...
"A Perfect Plan
The Danish Government has launched an ambitious renewable energy strategy that will convert its energy and transport system by 2050. Ambitious, in this case, means 100 percent.
For the coming decade, the strategy contains a range of concrete initiatives projected to lead to 36 percent renewable energy use by 2020, according to Ture Falbe-Hansen, head of media relations for the Danish Energy Agency. Milestone dates have been set for the years 2020, 2030 and 2035. By 2050, Denmark will be mostly fossil fuel free...
What does this plan mean for biomass? According to Falbe-Hansen, coal covers about 40 percent of Danish electricity production and nearly 20 percent of district heating production. Coal consumption will be reduced by 65 percent by 2020, he says. “The proposals will replace coal with biomass and initiatives to promote wind power.”
The Danish energy plan will stop any new buildings from using oil or gas-fired installations by 2013, with some exceptions, and also stop installation of oil-fired boilers in existing buildings by 2015. It will also provide funding for partnerships on strategic energy planning in municipalities for better use of resources like biomass.
So we have the perfect plan for our conversion to be a fossil-fuel free country, right? Isn't that what any open-minded reader of BP & T would conclude?

Well, maybe not, according to author Robert Bryce. In his convincing recent best seller, "Power Hungry: The Myths of 'Green' Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future", Mr. Bryce's Chapter 10 is entitled "Myth: Denmark Provides an Energy Model for the United States."
"America's leading energy cheerleaders love to cite Denmark as the model to be copied...[but]
The basic problem with Denmark's wind power sector is the same as it is everywhere: It must be backed up by conventional sources of generation. For Denmark, that means using coal as well as hydropower resources of its neighbors. As much as two-thirds of Denmark's total wind power production is exported to its neighbors in Germany, Sweden, and Norway...much of it at below market prices...
...the Danes are providing an electricity subsidy to their neighbors...In September 2009, the Danish Center for Political Studies...[declared] that this "exported wind power, paid for by Danish householders, brings material benefits in the form of cheap electricity and delayed investment in new generation equipment for consumers in Sweden and Norway but nothing for Danish consumers."
...None of this is aimed at belittling Denmark. The country has had remarkable success at keeping energy demand down...But let's be clear: that near-zero growth in energy consumption has been achieved in part by imposing exhorbitant energy taxes and by maintaining near-zero growth in population.
Thanks to their government's exorbitant tax rates, the Danes pay some of the highest electricity rates in the world. In 2006, the Energy Information Administration looked at residential electricity rates in sixty-five countries and found that Denmark's rates were the highest by far, amounting to some $0.32 per kilowatt-hour...about 25 percent higher than the electricity costs in the Netherlands, which had the next highest rates at $0.25 per kilowatt-hour...
While Danish homeowners are getting spanked by expensive electricity, Danish motorists are getting absolutely mugged at the service station...According to German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), an agency of the German government, only a handful of countries have more expensive fuel than Denmark, a list that includes Italy, Norway, Turkey, and Germany."
So while Denmark has a model for fossil-fuel reduction and theoretically, elimination, that model could find a few challenges in a country as energy-rich as America.

Different circumstances, different people, different objectives, different model. What's "perfect" in one place is probably not so in another. Even the BT&P article admits that the Danish "2011 energy report noted that the exact optimum energy system for 2050 is uncertain, as there are too many unknowns."

Such as...? More on that tomorrow.

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