Denmark aims to end the burning of fossil fuels by 2050 by switching entirely to wind power, according to The New York Times. This includes the use of fossil fuels in both areas of electricity and transportation.
This lofty goal is nowhere near as impossible as it sounds. Denmark has rapidly increased its wind power usage from nearly zero percent in the mid-1980s to 30 percent today. If this upward trend continues, the percentage of renewable energy used should increase to about 50 percent by 2020, culminating in 100 percent by 2050.
Denmark’s investment in clean, renewable energy was initially a response to the oil crises of the 1970s, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. Imported oil made up 95 percent of Denmark’s energy consumption at the time; the country initially transitioned to coal, which still generates about half of Denmark’s electricity today.
However, Denmark saw another opportunity in wind energy and made it a national priority through a series of national policies and subsidies, in accordance with the local communities and utilities.
In 1993, Denmark introduced a fixed feed-in tariff to make wind power an economic incentive, providing wind projects a refund from the Danish carbon tax and a partial refund on the nation’s energy tax. As a result, Danish wind capacity increased to 2,390 megawatts by the year 2000.
In 2009, Denmark introduced a form of compensation in which consumers paid for the costs of connecting offshore wind farms, with financing managed by the Danish Energy Agency.
Denmark is not the only nation investing in new sources of renewable energy—Germany has pushed harder than most developed nations to find a solution to global warming, according to The New York Times. The county has resolved to restructure its electric system by increasing the amount of power it receives from renewable energy sources to 30 percent, more than twice that of the United States. Though smaller countries like Denmark are already ahead in this regard, Germany is the largest industrial power in the modern area to reach this level of renewable energy usage.
Germany has lured big Chinese manufacturers into the market by investing in and increasing demand for wind turbines, especially solar panels. The resulting effect rapidly drove equipment costs down.
Though the United States has tried to present itself as one of the world’s leaders in innovation, our country has fallen short in regards to moving towards a renewable source of energy. Net wind electricity has more than doubled and net solar electricity generation has increased more than ten times over the past five years, but wind energy accounts for just 5 percent of our energy; solar power accounts for less than 1 percent.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that our country’s total solar potential is 100 times greater than our current electricity consumption, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. If the United States could set a goal for renewable energy, imagine where we could be in ten or twenty years.