Wind Power in Denmark:
Half the price of coal & gas
by Jake Richardson
The cheapest form of new electricity in Denmark will be onshore wind power when new turbines become operational in 2016, according to a new analysis by the country’s government. The price has been estimated to be about one half of what coal and natural gas cost.
Of course, if onshore wind power can be the cheapest form of new electricity, this fact dispenses with the notion that coal and natural gas are to remain long-term energy producers by default. The primary argument for keeping them seems to have been their low financial cost. As Rasmus Petersen, Danish Minister for Energy, Climate and Buildings states:
“Wind power today is cheaper than other forms of energy, not least because of the major commitment and professionalism in this field. This is true for researchers, companies and politicians alike.”
Denmark wants to be fossil-fuel free by 2050. Wind power in Denmark currently accounts for about 28% of the country’s electricity.
Coal, we know, has some serious disadvantages, notably how much it contributes to climate change and to the hazards of air pollution and associated illness and mortality. The Danish Energy Association's study didn’t factor in the environmental benefits of not burning coal — “the analysis was not based on a full cost-benefit assessment of different technologies that included an assessment of environmental benefits, taxes or subsidies.”
A Harvard Medical School study however has attempted to calculate the costs to American society of burning coal and estimated that number is about $500 billion every year. So, renewable energy is often compared to fossil fuels in an unfair way, because its advantages as a clean technology are too often overlooked.
If financial costs are becoming less and less of a barrier, then there appears to be less 'argumentative ground' for the opponents of renewable energy to stand on. Consider the DEA's statement this year declaring that a fossil-fuel-free energy system was indeed possible:
“It is technically possible to construct an energy system which is not based on coal, oil and natural gas. This has been confirmed in a our report entitled Energy Scenarios for 2020, 2035 and 2050, which calculates the additional costs of an energy supply independent of fossil fuels at between DKK 6 and 29 bn. in 2050, depending on the choice of green energy system.”
A fascinating trend is now taking place as individual nations take steps to become energy-independent. If you consider how much international conflict there has been over natural resources, will there be some geopolitical ripple effects created by Denmark becoming fossil-fuel free?
◊ Jake Richardson writes for Clean Technica. Publ. here 1.8.2014