Can Denmark rely on wind and solar while avoiding electricity shortages?

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Can Denmark rely on wind and solar while avoiding electricity shortages?
A solar power farm in Denmark. Photo:Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Almost all of Denmark’s electricity in coming years will be produced by wind and solar power. How can the country avoid shortages at times when the weather is against it?


The Danish Council on Climate Change (Klimarådet) has recommended three policies for politicians which it says will enable the country to maintain a stable electricity supply while relying on wind and solar production.

Although Danish homes are currently only affected by power cuts for an average of 20 minutes per year, that figure could go up once the country switches to more predominantly solar and wind-produced electricity.

The Council on Climate Change released a report on Wednesday with recommendations on how this potential problem can be addressed. Denmark plans to cut its oil, gas and coal production of electricity drastically in the coming years.

READ ALSO: Denmark’s renewable energy use passes landmark and is poised to grow in 2020s


“The good news is that we have the chance to ensure electricity security for a good price. Even though we are getting more wind and solar power in the system,” the chairman of the Council on Climate Change, Peter Møllgaard, told broadcaster DR.

“But politicians have to start doing this soon because it will take time. It’s important to plan it thoroughly now,” he said.

The first of the three levers recommended by the council is to invest on storage capacity for electricity that can be used on days when solar and wind production is low because of weather conditions.

Research into the area is ongoing and the council believes the technology will be ready in the coming years.

The second measure is for consumers to use less electricity – something that became more widespread in Denmark last year when many people took measures to cut back on their usage because prices were high. These include changes in consumption habits like running dishwashers and washing machines at night.

READ ALSO: How people in Denmark are changing their energy use to keep bills down

Although effective, these measures would need to take place at a much larger scale to ensure sustainably produced electricity is always available, according to the climate change council.

The experts behind the report said that, in addition to storage and saving, a reserve production method should be available for the “few hours” each year in which solar and wind power is unable to deliver the necessary electricity.

One possibility here is gas turbines which can be set to produce power at short notice. The practice is already common at Danish power stations.

That would mean production would not be sustainable, but the Council on Climate Change argues that it would only result in very limited emissions.

The cost of the measures would be around 2-3 billion kroner per year, or 100 kroner per family household on average, according to the council.

“We think that’s a manageable price to ensure we have electricity in our sockets year-round,” Møllgaard told DR.

“We don’t think we’re vulnerable on electricity in future. We just need to insure ourselves by investing in electricity supply security,” he said.


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