Denmark's Growing Sustainable Business Potential

In the United States, even the most basic programs for encouraging renewable energy and sustainable business have a hard time making it through Congress. On the other side of the Atlantic, however, western European countries are lining up to demonstrate that how industrialized nations can build up their economies with renewable power. Justmeans has already covered some of the major sustainable business innovations in countries like Portugal, Italy, and Germany. Now it seems as if Denmark could become the next European nation to take up a true leadership roll in the transition to clean energy sources.

Tomorrow Denmark’s Commission on Climate Change Policy is set to publish a report on the potential for repowering Denmark with non-fossil fuel based energy. Yet even though it hasn’t yet been officially released, media sources are already picking up the story that the report will recommend a shift to 100% renewable energy by the year 2050. The Commission on Climate Change apparently feels wind energy holds the most potential for development—and that makes sense, considering Denmark is a peninsula nation with vast offshore wind resources. The report also advises meeting a significant portion of Denmark’s energy demand with biofuels.

To be sure, Denmark is hardly a stranger to sustainable business and initiatives designed to reduce fossil fuel consumption. The city of Copenhagen is widely known as one of the most bicycle-friendly urban centers in the world, and the Danish company Vestas is an important player in the international wind energy market. Denmark’s island of Samso is already powered completely by renewable energy sources. Yet to make a complete break with fossil fuels, the national government will need to do even more.

Specifically, the Commission on Climate Change recommends Denmark channel half a percentage point of its GDP into developing renewable energy. It also lays out forty suggestions for measures the country should take to encourage sustainable business. These recommendations include further developing offshore wind resources, making more efficient buildings that cut back on ratepayer electricity bills, and investigating new sources of alternative energy. By following these guidelines, the report maintains, Denmark can sever ties with fossil fuels within the next four decades.

Of course recommendations do not necessarily translate into action, and the onus is now on the Danish government to translate proposals into policy. This November Denmark will release a new strategy to reduce climate change and ramp up domestic renewable energy—and the government will hopefully incorporate the Climate Change Commission’s suggestions into its strategy. If this happens, Denmark may solidify its position as a leader in the increasingly competitive clean tech field. It will also up the stakes for countries like the United States, which have yet to make such a concrete commitment to sustainable business.

Photo credit: Pal Espen Bondestad

Nick Engelfried is a freelance writer on climate and energy issues, and works with campuses and communities in the Pacific Northwest to reduce the causes of climate change.