What’s rotten in the state of Denmark? Electricity policy. And it’s even more rotten in Germany

Read the official website of Denmark and you’ll instantly figure out what the Danish government wants you to think about the place: it’s environmental. Denmark is a nation of cyclists, and it’s moving from “coal, oil and gas to green energy.” What a shame that all of this self-congratulatory talk has not, cannot, and will not make even a small difference in the amount of CO2 that Danish power plants dump into the air every year. And that is because they dump a lot of CO2. It’s not that their numbers cannot try the cause; it’s more like their numbers are either irrelevant or making matters worse.

Denmark occupies a very small plot of land: 42,430 square kilometers. My home province, Ontario, occupies 917,741 km2, enough to hold nearly 22 Denmarks.

The average Dane, riding around on his or her bicycle, scrupulously recycling his or her cans and bottles, and using less than one-quarter the electricity that the average Ontarian uses, had an electricity CO2 footprint nearly three times that of the average Ontarian!

Ontario also has more than twice the population of Denmark. In spite of this, the average Dane’s per capita CO2 emissions from electricity generation were nearly three times the average Ontarian’s (see Table 5 in the upper right). This even though the average Dane’s per capita electricity use was not even one-quarter that of the average Ontarian.

How is this possible? It’s possible because Danish power plants emitted more than 3 million tons more CO2 than Ontario’s did. Denmark, a nation of 5.6 million citizens, made less than one-quarter the amount of electricity Ontario did in 2011, but emitted more CO2!

The average Dane, riding around on his or her bicycle, recycling his or her cans and bottles, and using much less electricity than the average Ontarian, had an electricity CO2 footprint nearly three times that of the average Ontarian!

And yet Denmark is lauded as an example of successful green policies. It wonders me.

Let me put the record straight. Denmark is a terrible example of how to conduct electricity policy. So is its next door neighbor, Germany, which has outdone the Danes in building wind turbines and solar panels. Have another look at Table 5. Germany, the biggest talker of the green talk, is doing even worse than Denmark.

The world needs more Ontario. And France.

I don’t want to disparage Danes. They are honest, smart people. But they are being egregiously misled by the green lobby. They need to keep an eye on the (rising) concentration of CO2 in the global atmosphere; that concentration is published in the upper left of this website, and is updated daily from readings at the Keeling observatory in Mauna Loa Hawaii. They need to realize that the “green” energy sources their government has been touting have not, cannot, and will not reduce appreciably their per capita CO2 emissions from power generation. They need to look at what Ontario, France, and Sweden are doing to keep their respective CO2 at such low levels.

11 comments for “What’s rotten in the state of Denmark? Electricity policy. And it’s even more rotten in Germany

  1. Robert Budd
    June 20, 2014 at 21:52

    Thanks for continueing to put Ontario’s emissions into perspective Steve. We need this. One of the many bizarre situations in this province now, is that our electricity supply must be portrayed as “dirty” (by the “green” zeitgeist ,along with this gov’ts help) so that they can force us down the wind and pv road at the expense of nuclear.
    Instead of celebrating how far ahead we have been in this province and continuing to use it to advatage, we must all now develop wind turbine and pv envy and ignore the new “clean green” emissions from NG that will come with it.
    It might be worth comparing The Long Term Energy Plan’s (reduced nuclear, increased, wind,pv, NG) projected emissions intensity to instead maintaining or increasing nuclear. That would be a reality check for those claiming to be environmentalists.

  2. June 21, 2014 at 14:07

    Steve, the new template has a ridiculously narrow column width for the content.  Can you free up some space, say by putting the right sidebar over on the left below the existing stuff?

    • June 22, 2014 at 07:11

      Poet, thanks — I tested this out in Chrome/Chromium/Firefox/Opera in Ubuntu 12.04, plus in IE/Chrome/Firefox in Win 7 and things looked fine. What’s your browser/OS again?

      • June 22, 2014 at 09:37

        Firefox 30.0, Windows 7.

        As seen by me, the comment column is so narrow that yours wrapped right after “tested this out”.

      • June 22, 2014 at 09:38

        Also, there is a huge amount of white space on the left margin even inside the already-too-narrow column.

        I’ll mail you screenshots if you like.

      • KitemanSA
        June 23, 2014 at 11:16

        Looks fine on my iPad.

  3. Morgan Brown
    June 22, 2014 at 20:53

    A good detailed summary of Danish generation (and waste products) is found at:

    The total Danish generation in 2012 was 30,689 GWh gross (i.e., including station consumption of 1,768 GWh). They imported 15,958 GWh and exported 10,744 GWh, and had line losses of 987 GWh. The net electricity production is broken down to 35.5% wind, 0.06% hydro and photovoltaic, 10.9% biofuel, 5.0% waste, 14.5% nat gas, 0.7% oil, and 33.3% coal.

    They also list the 2012 CHP (Combined Heat and Power) production of 105,583 TJ, but this seems to be entirely designated heat (presumably the electricity portion is part of the electricity production in the previous paragraph). This is 29,329 GWh of heat, and can’t be accurately converted to an electrical equivalent because there is no breakdown of the grade of heat (i.e., some is low-temp space heating, some is higher-temp industrial steam).

    Including the CHP, the total 2012 CO2 production is given as 14,076,363 tonnes of CO2 (though the number of significant digits cannot be representative of the accuracy of this calculated number!). Simply dividing by the net generation of 28,921 GWhe (ignoring the net import) plus 29,329 GWh of heat gives a CIPK of 242 g/kWh. This is inaccurate, but provides the low estimate of the 2012 CIPK.

    The same document provides a detailed description of the other atmospheric emissions and also the residual waste (1,400,000 tonnes of solids) from electrical generation plus CHP. Hats off to the Danes for such detailed reporting.

    The report states one of the special conditions for 2012 was a “larger import of Nordic hydropower”. Hmmmm – given the Swedish and Finnish nuclear plants, it might be difficult to import only hydro power!

  4. Dan Haynes
    August 13, 2014 at 15:59

    I think it should be pointed out that roughly 78% of Ontario’s electricity is generated by a nuclear or hydro. So, I guess the main point of the article is that nuclear power has no carbon foot print, which I would hope that people know. However, the author does not address any of the problems with nuclear power, so while I would not call this egregious, it is misleading.

    • August 13, 2014 at 16:27

      Dan, that’s just it. What “problems with nuclear power”? There are prejudices, for sure. Frequently-offered-up problems generally centre on waste, cost, safety, and proliferation. All are based on falsehoods and/or exaggerations. I won’t argue that a lot of people believe these to be problems — nuclear halts or phaseouts in Japan and Germany are good evidence of that.

      But let’s be clear. Anti-nuclear hysteria in the Japanese/German public does not validate the underlying claims that problems exist. It just means the public has bought the claims. The public buys a lot of claims: witness the success of anti-vaxxers like Robert Kennedy. Again I won’t argue that the public acceptance of anti-nuclear claims is not a problem; obviously it is. I’m saying that the public should not buy the claims, because they are facile and false.

      I have tackled each of the alleged problems, in detail, numerous times, on this blog.

  5. CLC
    November 2, 2014 at 05:46


  6. CLC
    November 2, 2014 at 06:45

    Please note my “Bingo” comment was supposed to be in response to Stephen E. Alpin’s comment. It was NOT intended to support Dan Haynes’s comment.

    Unfortunately, it appears that it will be in support of Dan Haynes’s comment. Please can you move it.

    Thank you,


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