Denmark’s Liberal party wants to sell parts of country’s offshore wind business

Denmark's Liberal (Venstre) party wants to sell the state's ownership stake in Ørsted's offshore wind business to finance parts of an investment of 60 billion kroner in the green transition up to 2030.

Anholt Building Turbines
The Liberal Party wants to sell the state's stake in Ørsted's wind park operations. Photo by Ørsted / Press

The proposal is included in the party’s 2030 green plan. Party leader Jakob Ellemann-Jensen said the plan would “enable massive climate investments without taxes being raised.”

“We want to sell the state’s share in the Ørsted wind farm business. We want that because the time has passed for state ownership of such a large part of the company.

“That decision offers some possibilities. We’d link that with Venstre’s bid on what we should spend the funds on, which we have set aside in a large green fund before the summer holidays together with a number of other parties,” Ellemann-Jensen pointed out.

No longer part of Denmark’s critical infrastructure?

The plan states that “Ørsted is no longer critical infrastructure.”

“A number of divestments and a clear strategic focus have meant that the business is no longer part of Denmark’s critical infrastructure.

“By contrast, Ørsted’s main focus by far is the operation and construction of wind farms worldwide, where Ørsted competes on fully commercial terms,” the party writes in its 2030 plan.

However, Venstre wants Ørsted to keep its Danish power plants, which must remain state-owned.

Today, the state owns 50.1 percent of Ørsted, which was previously called Dong Energy, but changed its name to Ørsted in 2017.

The money from the sale of Ørsted’s wind turbine business would be invested in climate and nature-related projects, Vestre’s plan states.

Of the 60 billion kroner, 37.5 billion kroner would be set aside for green investments up to 2030.

For example, 8 billion kroner would be set aside for “cleaner drinking water,” while 8.5 billion kroner would be earmarked for climate and energy renovations of private homes.

A total of 15 billion kroner would go to research and development, “which would make Denmark climate neutral by 2050”.

Reactions to the proposal

Minister for Climate, Energy and Utilities Dan Jørgensen of the Social Democrats (S) calls the sale of parts of Ørsted “unreasonable,” adding that it would come at “an unreasonable time.”

“I think it is a very unwise proposal in a time when there is so much uncertainty in the world. On the contrary, we have to protect the important energy infrastructure we have,” he said.

He believes the wind farm business is a “very important part of Ørsted’s business.” At the same time, he points out that it would be “completely impossible to control who buys it.”

The Liberal Party’s proposal was also met with sharp criticism from the Socialist People’s Party (SF) leader Pia Olsen Dyhr.

“It’s close to the craziest thing I’ve heard in a long time,” she wrote on Twitter.

“Ørsted has been a driving force in the green transition, partly because the state has been the main shareholder.”

The SF left Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s government in 2014 after it allowed Goldman Sachs to become a co-owner of the then Dong Energy.

The Moderates also reject the idea of selling Ørsted’s wind farm business.

“A definite ‘no thanks’ from our end,” parliamentary candidate Jakob Engel-Schmidt wrote on Twitter.

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Why the energy crisis isn’t over yet in Denmark

Denmark has cut the majority of its consumption of Russian gas but it is too early to disregard all energy saving measures, experts advise.

Why the energy crisis isn’t over yet in Denmark

Gas stocks in Denmark remain high despite the winter having reached the halfway mark, but it would not be prudent to drop good energy saving habits, broadcaster DR writes.

Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 40 percent of the natural gas used by Europe came from Russia. That has now been reduced to around 8-10 percent, DR reports.

This means that the EU has moved towards its target of becoming independent of Russian gas, a senior consultant in the Danish energy sector told the broadcaster.

“We have put plans into action and with the amount of gas we are saving now, we are almost at the point of being able to go without Russian gas,” Kristian Rune Poulsen of Green Power Denmark, the interest organisation for the energy sector, said.

The reason for this is that imports of liquid gas from North America and the Middle East have been increased, but also because consumers and businesses across Europe have managed to reduce consumption.

“In Denmark, we used 37 percent less gas in 2022 compared with 2021. How much of this is actual savings and how much is from switching to other fuels, we don’t yet know for sure,” Poulsen said.

Europe currently has good gas stocks and prices are expected to be stable for the rest of the winter.

READ ALSO: Low European gas prices ‘will benefit’ energy consumers in Denmark

But it’s too early to call off the energy crisis and turn up thermostats without a care, according to a number of experts who spoke to DR.

“There’s no doubt that it’s a huge success that we’ve succeeded in saving 20-25 percent on gas and significantly increased imports of liquid gas,” Brian Vad Mathiesen, energy researcher at Aalborg University, said to DR.

“But we still get Russian gas through Turkey and Ukraine, and countries like Hungary and Romania are still dependent on Russian gas,” he said.

Moscow could therefore still use gas as leverage to drive a wedge between European countries, he stated.

A senior researcher in international relations also said that measures to conserve gas should continue.

“We’ve been good at cutting back. But if we stop saving now, we’ll run into problems next year,” Trine Villumsen Berling of the Danish Institute for International Studies told DR.

Much of the gas currently stored was originally supplied by Russia, she noted. Power plants still need to use gas to produce energy when weather conditions reduce wind output, she also said.

“We need Danes to still have those good habits. We must remain aware of how we use energy and how much we turn on the heating for quite a while yet,” she said.

“We must remember that in future we won’t get much gas from Russia and that we are only in this healthy situation because we have been good at conserving,” added Poulsen of Green Power Denmark.