Can Denmark help European effort to quit Russian gas?

Denmark recently resumed construction of a gas pipeline from Norway to Poland following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Pipes for the Danish section of the Baltic Pipe gas pipeline are stacked at Houstrup Strand
Pipes for the Danish section of the Baltic Pipe gas pipeline are stacked at Houstrup Strand, near Nørre Nebel in Jutland, in February 2022. Photo: John Randeris/Ritzau Scanpix

From plans for liquefied natural gas terminals in northern Germany, Finland and France to potential new routes through Spain and the Mediterranean, Europe is striving to rid itself of its dependence on Russian gas, though experts say the task will take years to complete.

In Middelfart in central Denmark, work resumed last month on the Baltic Pipe project, a planned 900-kilometre link, mainly intended to help Poland reduce its dependence on Russian natural gas.

“Of course it’s also to have the gas in the Danish system but mainly also to help our good neighbours’ gas systems and our Polish good friends,” Søren Juul Larsen, head of the project at Danish energy infrastructure operator Energinet, told news wire AFP.

Just a week after the invasion of Ukraine, the Danish environmental authority — which had concerns about the project’s impact on local populations of mice and bats — granted a permit to continue construction, after a nine-month suspension.

READ ALSO: Denmark okays gas pipeline connecting Norway and Poland

“The pipeline was stopped because of a lack of permissions concerning the protection of nature and rare species,” Trine Villumsen Berling, a researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies, told AFP.

“We were expecting it to soon be approved but of course the war made it a more pressing issue,” Villumsen said.

Envisioned almost 20 years ago, construction of the partly submerged pipeline began in 2018. It is now expected to start operations in October, before becoming fully operational on January 1st, 2023.

“We really have a good cooperation with all contractors to speed up (and) do whatever we can to protect the schedule,” Juul Larsen explained during a visit to the construction site.

With an annual transport capacity of 10 billion cubic metres of gas, the pipeline should cover around 50 percent of consumption by Poland, which announced three years ago it would end its contract with Russian giant Gazprom in 2022.

While this may be good news for Poland, it could spell trouble for other European countries seeking to free themselves of Russian gas.

Norway, Europe’s second-largest gas supplier after Russia, is delivering at full capacity, so more gas to Poland means less for the rest of the continent.

“This project would help out Poland but may lead to less Norwegian gas exports to the UK and Germany,” Zongqiang Luo, an expert at research firm Rystad Energy, told AFP.

In addition, many long-term contracts between Russia and European suppliers are valid for another 10 to 15 years, he noted.

READ ALSO: Danish energy company says it will cut ties with Gazprom in 2030

While the European Union has resisted calls to ban Russian gas immediately, it has announced plans to slash imports by two thirds this year and eliminate them entirely before the end of the decade.

With Norway at full capacity, Dutch and UK fields in decline, and Russian gas declared undesirable, Europe is looking for gas from further away, including liquefied natural gas (LNG) transported by ship from the US, Qatar and Africa. 

But such imports require the construction of large LNG terminals to turn it back into gas or, at the very least, the purchase of so-called floating storage regasification units (FSRUs).

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Denmark and three other EU nations want to increase North Sea wind power tenfold by 2050

EU members Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium on Wednesday said they wanted to increase their North Sea wind power capacity tenfold by 2050 to help the bloc achieve its climate goals and avoid Russian hydrocarbons.

Denmark and three other EU nations want to increase North Sea wind power tenfold by 2050

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said the plan would mean the four countries would “deliver more than half of all offshore wind needed to reach climate neutrality in the European Union”.

The increase would make the North Sea “the green power plant of Europe”, she told a news conference in the port of Esbjerg in western Denmark.

“Setting a vision is not enough, we will make it happen,” Frederiksen added, flanked by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen, Dutch premier Mark Rutte and Belgian leader Alexander De Croo.

The countries’ goal is to raise wind power capacity fourfold to 65 gigawatts by 2030 and then tenfold to almost 150 gigawatts by 2050.

They said 150 gigawatts of offshore wind power would supply 230 million homes with electricity.

Such a capacity would amount to 15,000-20,000 wind turbines, based on the most powerful ones currently on the market.

The announcement comes as the European Commission presented a plan to accelerate the development of renewable energy worth 210 billion euros ($220 billion) to reduce the bloc’s dependence on Russian gas as quickly as possible.

The European Union has already said it will end imports of Russian coal by August.

An embargo on Russian oil as part of a sixth sanctions package against Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine is proving more contentious after Hungary raised objections.

The commission has said it wants to reduce purchases of Russian gas by two-thirds this year and completely before 2030.

On Wednesday it proposed to increase the proportion of renewable energies in the bloc’s energy mix from 40 percent to 45 percent by 2030.

The 27-nation EU aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

READ ALSO: Danish offshore wind could help Europe ditch fossil fuels