DENMARK is closely linked to Scotland in the energy sector, with the town of Esbjerg being their equivalent of Aberdeen, and the oil and gas industries and renewables are the areas which see the most frequent co-operation between Scots and Scandinavians.
It is not often realised that Denmark has considerable oil and gas resources in the North Sea and has been a net exporter of crude oil, with its oil reserves expected to last until 2050 at least. There has long been co-operation between Scots and Danes in the North Sea and that will continue for decades.
It is in renewables, however, that Denmark has a huge lead over Scotland and just about every country in the world. After having to import 92 per cent of its oil and gas in 1972, successive Danish governments have supported and promoted renewables, and wind power above all, so that one Danish firm, turbine manufacturer Vestas, is now the world’s largest producer of wind turbines. For another example, in a development that somehow was not trumpeted around the world, Denmark last month installed the world’s first Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) connected to a main grid and capable of providing electricity stored from renewable sources on a 24-7 basis. It was only for 60 houses in Nordhavn, the new harbour district of the nation’s capital Copenhagen – the Danish government says it will make Copenhagen the world’s first carbon neutral capital by 2025 – but BESS may yet transform the world’s energy systems. One man who has comprehensive-ly and thoroughly studied the Danish renewables sector – he wrote a seminal work on the subject for the United Nations, no less – is Professor Andrew Cumbers of Glasgow University.
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In that UN paper he wrote of the 1970s: “Much of the country’s political and business establishment favoured nuclear power as an alternative to oil, but was opposed by a coalition of green, left and rural communities brought together by an alternative vision of a more localised, decentralised model based on renewable energy.
“An important factor that probably helped to tip the balance away from nuclear power was the continuing tradition of interest in wind power as an alternative, and the existence of engineering and scientific communities that were able to showcase the viability of non-nuclear technologies in a populist way.”
He said yesterday: “Denmark has never lost that lead in the renewables industry and even if it is not manufacturing as much as it used to, it is certainly the leading design nation and has led the world in district heating and combined heat and power, too.”
Cumbers revealed to The National reasons why Denmark is such an energy-efficient nation and why Scotland could emulate the nation if we had control of all our energy policies.
He explained: “The Scottish Government is strongly willed to move in the direction that Denmark is going, but unfortunately most of the big policy levers are at UK Government level because most energy policy is not devolved.
“The energy market is regulated by the UK Government, which if not climate change-sceptic, is certainly moving in that direction. That is a problem for Scotland and it wants to match Denmark’s government which has full competence over its energy policy and which has been pretty interventionist since 1980 to push renewables.”
It would be important for an independent Scotland to have a decentralised grid and better connectivity to Europe, said Cumbers.
He said: “The Danish energy agency had a massive programme to completely restructure their grid infrastructure to accommodate renewables and locally owned decentralised energy producers.
“The technology is moving that way towards decentralisation, but because Scotland doesn’t even control its own grid, there’s no chance of that happening here at the moment as the UK centralised the grid from 1945 onwards around Big Power.”
An independent Scotland would have vast renewable energy resources as we all should know, but at the moment, the UK Government is holding Scotland back.