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Community Energy the experience of Denmark
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Anne Thomas
Posted 5/11/2014 20:48 (#1479)
Subject: Community Energy the experience of Denmark

Extreme Veteran

Posts: 316
Here are Penny's notes on the talk in Culbokie in Oct '14
Energy Planning Context in Denmark
The oil crisis of 1973 hit Denmark hard because of its dependence on oil. This started a 40 year process of active energy planning that is still going on today. Increasing concerns about climate change added to the motivation for change which was brought about through a productive partnership between NGO’s and government agencies.

Through the 80’s there was gradually increasing community support for wind power so that now Denmark is a leading producer and wind power is an important national income generator.

In the early years oil was substituted with coal for energy security but gradually renewables increased and all fossil fuel sources decreased. During the entire period, despite population increase of about 10%, energy use was stable due to improved insulation in homes and the introduction of combined heat and power plants.

The government goals are as follows:
• 100% renewable energy by 2050 including transport
• 100% renewable electricity by 2035
• 80% wind power in electricity by 2020
• 40% CO2 reduction by 2020 compared to 1990

The main measures being taken are
• Energy saving
• Efficiency improvements in making energy – combined heat and power, mostly small plants owned by private co-ops which is a tradition in Denmark. This is supported by government loans through a special financing institution. A plant such as this exists in most villages – mostly gas fired
• Renewable production
• Waste to energy

The key to 100% renewables is a Smart Grid where there is coordination between production and consumption. But you also need smart energy systems which join heating/ industry/ gas/ transport. When surpluses exist they are directed elsewhere.

Denmark used a system of ‘backcasting’ from 2050 to decide what to do now. This method shows where actions that look good now might not contribute to the final place you want to get to and may take you in the wrong direction. This approach ensures that all steps taken contribute to the 2050 goal.

This led to the following conclusions:
• It is possible to integrate 20% wind power and other intermittent renewables into the grid using CHP to regulate electricity production – the CHP plants can be switched at short notice to heat only
• If large heat pumps are added that consume rather than produce electricity it is possible to get to 40% wind power in the grid
• If transport is involved too it is possible to get to 60% wind power in the grid. This requires a proportion of electric cars that can be charged when power is in surplus and can be used to regulate supply
Heavy trucks can’t be run on electricity and need liquid fuel. In order to phase out fossil fuels completely it is necessary to make gas from renewables using electricity and biofuels.

So it is technically feasible to run Denmark with no fossil fuels at all with just renewables, including a small amount of biomass.

Samso – The Renewable Energy Island
Samso is a small island off the east coast of Denmark run as an independent municipality with around 4000 people. It is quite a poor island with a large proportion on pensioners and few young people. Jobs were needed to keep young people on the island.

In 1996 there was a competition in Denmark for the first Renewable Energy Island. Samso won the competition. The island wanted the project to support jobs, the local economy and to improve its own self-determination so that it had funds to plough back into the community.

The competition required the production of a professional energy plan modelled using sophisticated software and using only technologies already in existence. It then set a simple target to become fossil fuel free by 2030 including transportation. It has to be an inclusive partnership approach involving a democratic process.

Importantly the energy plan allowed for a strategic approach rather than a piecemeal approach so that, for example, turbines could be designed together to reduce visual disturbance.

Within 10 years the island was 100% self-supplied. It still used fossil fuel in cars but it exported more than enough electricity to cover this so that emissions were negative.

Technology in use includes 10 onshore and 11 offshore 1MW wind turbines, 4 CHP plants using straw (1 large bale = 200l oil) which would otherwise have been exported from the island, solar installations and wood chips. Surpluses are exported. Decisions required lots of meetings and local participation.

Early in the process a range of courses were arranged for local people to learn required skills so that locals were qualified to get the work and the schools, farmers and businesses were all involved. An energy academy has now been developed housing staff working to support the island industry and working with the various stakeholders with around 9 staff in place.

Plans are now being developed for more projects. Building standards have been increased for new homes, there is a green golf course on the island and a low energy hotel is planned. Also a ferry has been procured by the municipality which runs on liquid natural gas so that this too can become fossil free in time using fuel feeds such as food waste, manure and energy crops which could be produced as part of the arable cycle. They are currently in the process of developing the plant which will be needed to do this.

Samso’s economy was based on agriculture and tourism. Now renewable energy and energy tourism have become increasingly important.
The success of Samso required the following:
• Government support
• Entrepreneurs
• Technology
• Local engaged participants

The Meeting involved some lively debate. One of the questions asked was
Q – How long do the renewable technology machines last and what is the energy needed to build, operate and replace them?
A – Life of the machines is around 20-25 years. The average energy payback period is 1 year of operation. In the future, industrial processes to make the machines will use gas produced using renewable electricity.
Transition Black Isle is working with the Black Isle Partnership in a working group called ‘Black Isle Community Energy’. Details of their project proposed for the Black Isle are at
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We are part of the rapidly expanding worldwide Transition Towns movement. The Black Isle is a peninsula of about 100 sq miles ENE of Inverness in Scotland, UK.

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