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ENERGY

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.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo at the North Sea Summit at the Port of Esbjerg on May 18th
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo at the North Sea Summit at the Port of Esbjerg on May 18th. Photo: Bo Amstrup/Ritzau Scanpix

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

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TAXES

Danish government accused of breaking promises on tax cuts

Critics of the Danish government say it is failing to meet promises on tax cuts made in the coalition policy agreement because of a plan to apply a special tax to energy firms and use it to assist individuals struggling with high living costs.

Danish government accused of breaking promises on tax cuts

The criticism has emerged from the recent announcement that energy companies are to be required to pay a special tax contribution totalling 1.2 billion kroner due to additional revenues resulting from the energy crisis. The special tax is connected to an EU measure aimed at relieving high energy prices for consumers.

The money will be spent by the state on support for members of the public who are struggling with costs caused by inflation. This will funnel it back to consumers, the government argues.

READ ALSO: Danish energy companies ordered to return 1.2 billion kroner

“That is not what you would normally think to be a tax freeze,” economy professor Bo Sandemann Rasmussen of Aarhus University said in comments to newspaper Berlingske.

In December’s coalition policy agreement, the government states that its tax policies will be “be based on tax freeze” (skattestop).

The term skattestop has been a key part of tax policy within the Liberal (Venstre) party, one of the two junior partners in the coalition, for over two decades.

The government suggested it will use a fund of 300 million kroner previously set aside for a temporary subsidy for vulnerable families in order to meet its tax promises.

It also wants to give inflation-related tax-free cash payments to low-income senior citizens who receive the ældrecheck welfare benefit.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: What are the main policies of the new Danish government?

But these plans do not fit with a “tax freeze” in the traditional sense, Rasmussen said to Berlingske.

“Normally you would say this [a tax freeze] should happen within the tax system. In other words, via either direct taxation of people’s incomes or through indirect taxes like VAT,” he said.

In September, the European Commission asked member countries to implement plans to cap to energy company profits. These, as well as levy collections from fossil energy companies, were expected to raise 140 billion euros.

The policy was a key element of the Commission’s measures to relieve high energy prices for consumers.

Tax Minister Jeppe Bruus noted in a comment that the EU had required the Danish government to apply a special tax, news wire Ritzau writes.

“This is therefore a proposal that is the consequence of a regulation that took effect before the new government was in place,” Bruus said.

“The policies the government has presented mean, overall, that taxes will be considerably reduced,” he stated.

Negotiations with other parties could determine the way in which the money regained from energy companies is spent – and therefore whether it takes the character of tax cuts.

The Liberals said they stand by their “tax freeze” principle.

“We naturally stand by the tax freeze and want to reduce tax by billions for both Danes and Danish companies. The EU has – before the coalition was formed – required Denmark to implement [caps on energy companies],” Liberal tax spokesperson Jan E. Jørgensen said in a written comment.

“At the same time, there are a number of criteria from the EU on what the proceeds from these measures can be used for and what they may not be used for,” he added.

The libertarian thinktank Cepos accused the government of breaking promises to reduce tax and rejected its argument relating to the EU regulation.

“According to the tax ministry, the proceeds from tax increases [on energy companies] can go to things like measures to relieve the consequences of high electricity prices for consumers,” Cepos senior economist Mads Lundby Hansen told Ritzau.

“Lower electricity taxes reduce electricity prices, so I therefore see no obstacle to the government, for example, reducing the electricity tax and thereby complying with its tax freeze,” he said.

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