RE-Invest

Smart transition will ensure

green energy by 2050

Denmark will be 100 per cent independent of fossil fuels by the year 2050. Already now, we must rethink the transformation of our energy system, and link electricity, heating and transport in a smart way. Not only Danish but also European energy companies must be involved. A major new project will pave the way.

In a few years, Denmark will be at a turning point where new methods are required to continue the green transition. Approximately 50 per cent of all Danish electricity will soon come from wind, and Denmark has solved the enormous challenge of getting power plants to increase or decrease electricity production in response to changing wind conditions. The next problem is to exploit wind, solar and biomass energy for heating production, and especially to keep the wheels turning in the transport sector which is heavily dependent on fossil petrol and diesel. A political decision has been taken that Denmark should manage with no fossil fuels at all by 2050 – and we will have reached 30 per cent of this target by 2020.

To reach the final target, a complete reorganisation of the entire energy grid is necessary, so this must already be incorporated into the future strategy. The decisions and investments we make now regarding energy, heating and transport services can be crucially important for when the political finishing line is reached.

"If we build a new power plant today, we’re locked into this technology for 40 years. That’s about as long as such a plant can last. The new things we build today must therefore fit into both the present and the future, so that the transition to clean renewable energy in 2050 can take place as smartly and cheaply as possible. It’s really a matter of converting to what is right without forgetting the whole energy infrastructure we’ve got today," says Assistant Professor Gorm Bruun Andresen.

More dependent on electricity than ever

Gorm Bruun Andresen is participating in the RE-Invest project which gathers some of the major players in the energy market that are joined by researchers from some of the leading universities in the world. This is because it involves much more than simply replacing coal-fired power plants with wind turbines.

The energy system of the future will actually be far more decentralised than it is today. Wind turbines and solar cells are making greater and greater inroads, and this means that the system must be able to handle varying energy production. At the same time, our everyday activities are becoming significantly more dependent on electricity for basics such as heating and transport, which means that the system must be capable of dealing with and benefiting from an overall energy infrastructure rather than the traditional silos of electricity, heating and transport.

In addition, as we all know, wind turbines and solar cells work best when weather conditions permit. Denmark’s electricity system of the future will therefore become dependent on our neighbouring countries, which means we must look beyond our borders when we talk about energy production in the future.

"We must keep Europe in mind. Denmark has one strategy, but how does that fit in with the rest of Europe? How do the decisions taken in other countries influence the Danish model with lots of wind, for example? The electricity grid must match so that when we have excess wind, and thereby produce surplus energy, it’s no use that all the other surrounding countries are also producing too much wind energy. It involves coordinating our strategy with all the others," says Professor Martin Greiner, who is also taking part in the project.

Getting a technological head start

Green conversion and phasing out fossil fuels are not cheap. They actually require an annual investment of approximately DKK 100 billion because the transition involves not only energy and heating but also the entire transport sector, including cars that run on diesel and petrol. However, if Denmark leads the way with the development, the players in the Danish energy sector can make use of the technological head start resulting from such a green transition.

"If Denmark takes the lead, this is where the solutions will be developed and tried out, and our companies will learn from it. It’s not so many years ago that half of all the wind turbines in the world were situated in Denmark. In other words, the experience gained in building such constructions is located in Denmark. This is one of the things we get by taking the lead. It might be expensive but, on the other hand, we acquire experience we can sell to the rest of the world," explains Assistant Professor Andresen.


PHOTO TOP: Solar and wind energy will cover an ever-greater share of Denmark’s power supply, and this means that the network must be able to handle a decentralised energy structure with fluctuating production. Pictured here are Assistant Professor Gorm Bruun Andresen (left) and Professor Martin Greiner (right), who will both help steer Denmark towards the right investment strategy that will make the country free of fossil fuels by 2050. (Photo: Lars Kruse)

PROJECT FACTS

Title
RE-Invest – Renewable Energy Investments Strategies – A two-dimensional interconnectivity approach

Schedule
2017 – 2021

Financial framework
DKK 27 million, 
Innovation Fund Denmark

Partners
Aalborg University
Stanford University (USA)
Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies (Germany)
Østfoldforskning (Norway)
DONG Energy
Energinet.dk
Danish Energy Agency
HMN Naturgas
Haldor Topsoe
EMD International
Statkraft
Danish District Heating Association Danfoss
Kamstrup
Aalborg CSP
MP Pension.

About the research section

Contact