Fact check: Danish wind and carbon emissions cuts
Guest blog by John B. Cadogan, Ph.D.
The issue of wind energy's contribution to Denmark's electric supply arose in response to an op-ed by Robert Bryce in Sunday's Washington Post in which Bryce alleged that the displacement of carbon dioxide emissions in Denmark by wind energy was a myth. The Huffington Post published a response by Matt Wasson, Director of Programs for Appalachian Voices, that thoroughly debunked the non-carbon-displacement myth, among others. In a comment on his Huffington Post article, Wasson identified a Danish report that provided more detailed information. That report is the subject of this comment.
There have been a lot of excellent responses to the "CEPOS Report," by a policy group in Denmark, that asserted that wind power does not save CO2 emissions in Denmark and that Denmark exports MOST of its wind power. A Director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Electricity and this author got into this issue in 2006, just after a story alleging the net export appeared in an energy newsletter.
The CEPOS report tried to extend the conclusions of the analysis to wind power in the United States. On the surface, the CEPOS allegation appears plausible because Denmark at times exports lots of electricity to Germany and the Nordic countries, and the aggregation of wind generation and CHP (combined heat and power) can exceed total demand at times. Until recently, wind power and all CHP were "must take," meaning that the transmission system operator(s) had to accept that power and compensate elsewhere.
The CEPOS report itself was found to have been funded by the the American Energy Alliance (AEA), which is an independent affiliate of the Institute for Energy Research (IER) and the latter "has received $307,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998." (Climate Progress).
A number of responses to the CEPOS report were generated by wind experts. Among the most complete is the response by Michael Goggin on the AWEA blog, Sept. 15, 2009, and the Danish Wind Report fact sheet by AWEA.
Just recently a group of 14 Danish experts issued a report that analyzes the use of wind power in Denmark, the export of wind power, and its costs. This report extensively debunks the conclusions and analyses of the CEPOS report. It concludes:
"Recently, a study made by the Danish think tank CEPOS claimed the opposite, i.e. that most of the Danish wind power has been exported in recent years. However, this claim is based on an incorrect interpretation of statistics and a lack of understanding of how the international electricity markets operate. Consequently, the results of the CEPOS study are in general not correct. Moreover, the CEPOS study claims that using wind turbines in Denmark is a very expensive way of reducing CO2 emissions and that this is the reason for the high energy taxes for private consumers in Denmark. These claims are also misleading. The cost of CO2 reduction by use of wind power in the period 2004-2008 was only 20 EUR/ton. Furthermore, the Danish wind turbines are not paid for by energy taxes."
The report analyses the hour-by-hour behavior of the wind power markets in Scandinavia, Denmark and Germany and concludes that very little Danish wind power is exported and what power is exported comes from large central station plants when the power can be sold in the marketplace for relatively high prices.
This report, "Danish Wind Power --- Export and Cost" by Henrik Lund, et al., February 19th 2010, Department of Development and Planning, Aalborg University, Denmark, is the most authoritative analysis of wind energy's contribution to Denmark's electric supply. It also covers moving from 20% to 50% wind power and the cost of wind energy. A PDF is available at www.energyplanning.aau.dk.
References in order of appearance:
1. Washington Post, "Five myths about green energy", Robert Bryce, Sunday, April 25, 2010;
2. Matt Wasson, "Extreme Misinformation in the Washington Post: Actually, Wind Power has
Reduced Denmark's CO2 Emissions a Lot," April 26, 2010,
3. CEPOS, Center for Politiske Studies, "Wind Energy The Case of Denmark", September 2009.
4. Michael Goggin, "The Truth about Wind Power in Denmark", 15 Sep 2009.
5. AWEA, Danish Wind Report Fact Sheet, September 2009, http://www.awea.org/newsroom/pdf/DanishWindReport_Factsheet.pdf.
6. Hendrik Lund, et al., "Danish Wind Power --- Export and Cost", February 19th 2010,
Department of Development and Planning, Aalborg University, Denmark.