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Electric Worlds / Mondes électriques

Creations, Circulations, Tensions, Transitions (19th–21st C.)

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Edited By Alain Beltran, Léonard Laborie, Pierre Lanthier and Stéphanie Le Gallic

What interpretation(s) do today’s historians make of electrification? Electrification is a process which began almost a hundred and fifty years ago but which more than one billion men and women still do not have access to. This book displays the social diversity of the electric worlds and of the approaches to their history. It updates the historical knowledge and shows the renewal of the historiography in both its themes and its approaches. Four questions about the passage to the electrical age are raised: which innovations or combination of innovations made this passage a reality? According to which networks and appropriation? Evolving thanks to which tensions and alliances? And resulting in which transition and accumulation?

Quel(s) regard(s) les historiens d’aujourd’hui portent-ils sur l’électrification, processus engagé il y a près de cent cinquante ans mais auquel plus d’un milliard d’hommes et de femmes restent encore étrangers ? Le présent volume rend compte de la diversité des mondes sociaux électriques et des manières d’enquêter sur leur histoire. Il actualise les connaissances et témoigne du renouvellement de l’historiographie, dans ses objets et ses approches. Quatre points d’interrogation sur le basculement des sociétés dans l’âge électrique jalonnent le volume : moyennant quelles créations ou combinaisons créatrices ? En vertu de quelles circulations et appropriations ? Selon quelles tensions et alliances ? Et produisant quelles transitions et accumulations ?

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Designing the Energy Future. Two Narratives on Energy Planning in Denmark, 1973-1990

← 480 | 481 →

Designing the Energy Future

Two Narratives on Energy Planning in Denmark, 1973-1990

Mogens RÜDIGER

Abstract

The 1970s was characterized by energy crises and, consequently, by many debates about how to design the next generation energy supply and how to reduce the amount of energy consumed in the Western world. This article examines two positions and their interactions in Denmark. First, the administration very thoroughly analyzed the Danish energy sector in several reports published in the 1970s. They concluded that diversification was the core issue to improve energy security, and that an increased use of coal and the introduction of natural gas should diminish the substantial dependence on oil. In opposition to this plan, a group of social scientists and engineers affiliated to Danish universities put forward alternative plans, which questioned the official growth based discourse. The alternative plans were rooted in the protest movement against nuclear power and they shared goals for a future energy supply primarily based on renewables. In the wake of the publication of the Brundtland Report in 1987 and a new government coalition, this NGO found a window of opportunity to gain influence on the energy planning. The outcome was a short-lived interaction in the late 1980s between the administration and the university researchers, and an energy plan, which paved the way for Denmark’s position as one of the global frontrunners in greening the energy sector.

Finally, the controversy in the 1970s and 1980s on the use of atomic power is a rare instance of popular influence on energy planning because the anti-nuclear power campaign succeeded in giving voice to widespread concerns about risks related to nuclear power, and thereby contributed to putting energy on the political agenda.

Keywords: Energy planning, energy policy, energy crises, anti-nuclear power campaign, regulation

* ← 481 | 482 →

Introduction

In the official Danish self-image on energy and climate change, a predominant narrative draws the picture that the trajectory from the early response to the first oil crisis in 1973-74 to Denmark’s position as one of the global leaders in the green transition of the energy sector took place without controversies and changes in policy. This is not accurate. Some features like the strong regulatory regime established in the 1970s have carried through to present days, but energy and climate policy has also experienced a paradigm shift. In the following pages, I am going to describe and discuss one of the most crucial policy changes in contemporary Danish energy planning. This story includes attempts from a group of university researchers to elaborate an alternative to the Government’s energy policy discourse.

The governmental and the alternative discourses are of interest for at least two reasons:

First, as a response to the oil crisis in 1973-74, the government established a regulatory regime in order to improve the security supply, a regime that resulted in some unintended consequences, especially high CO2 emissions per capita. However, this regulatory regime also proved to be valuable in another context, when the international standards for the greening of energy production and reducing the emissions were to be applied to the Danish society.

Secondly, an alternative with a mission materialized; this alternative had its roots in environmentalism. Some of them, a group of researchers affiliated to Danish universities, chose to confront the official plans with “Alternative Energy Plans,” and over the years, they published four of them. The group included engineers, planners and economists. Some of them were members of an environmental organization named NOAH, nowadays a part of the Friends of the Earth, and some of them were members of The Club of Rome.

The official narrative implies a trajectory without fault lines in spite of the extraordinary situation stemming from the oil crises. The enduring element in this evolution was the government regulation initiated in the mid-1970s and continuously improved and tuned up to meet upcoming challenges. This top-down narrative is true in part only, since it omits the difficulties in responding to the big challenges like the liberalization and environmental issues connected to the energy sector.

Similarly, the NGO’s alternative narrative depicts a process without breaks. There is – the argument runs – a direct line from the opposition to nuclear power to the praised position making Denmark one of the global forerunners in the green transition of the energy sector. Small groups ← 482 | 483 → of far-sighted citizens paved the way for this quite outstanding role by fighting erroneous political decisions and insisting that the future was to be found in renewables. This bottom-up narrative is not completely wrong, but it tends to forget the importance of regulation and incentives launched by the government.

In this article, I will argue that reality is more complicated than the two narratives suggest. I examine the relevant energy plans tabled in the 1970s and 1980s and the anti-nuclear power movement’s impact on the public debate about the future energy sector. In doing so, it is obvious that a break took place in the late 1980s. In 1988, a new government began implementing the recommendations in the Brundtland report (1987) and thus entered upon a new path in energy planning. As a conclusion, I will discuss the popular influence on the energy plans and the main drivers in the process that lead to the greening of the Danish energy sector.

The oil crises and the first energy plan

When the first oil crisis surfaced in October 1973, Denmark’s energy consumption was primarily based on oil. Ninety per cent of the energy consumption was oil and ninety per cent of the oil use imported from the Middle East. The quadrupling of prices and the Arab countries’ threat of an oil embargo prompted the government to formulate an energy policy consisting of a plan and a regulatory framework securing the energy supply in the country.1 Since Denmark had no energy policy before the first oil crisis in 1973-1974, this innovation was caused by pure necessity.

The very first step was to launch an energy saving campaign. Simultaneously, the government initiated a thorough analysis of the structure and characteristics of the energy sector.2 No stone was left unturned. Based on these examinations, the first energy plan – Danish Energy Policy 1976 – was published in 1976 and this plan outlined the future of the energy sector down to the early 1990s.

The plan focused on supply reliability and the overall target was the establishment of a multi-tiered energy supply. To achieve this, the plan recommended oil dependency to be reduced by an increasing use of coal and by introducing natural gas, nuclear power and to a lesser extent alternative forms of energy such as wind power and solar heating. Furthermore, the heat generated by electricity production should to a greater extent be used to expand the district heating system and thus increase the role of Combined Heat and Power (CHP). Finally, the plan recommended a comprehensive prioritization of the energy use in the ← 483 | 484 → form of a Heating Plan Act, a nationwide mapping of which fuels to be used where in heating the Danish homes.

Danish Energy Policy 1976 outlined six objectives:

  • reducing the vulnerability of the energy system and improving the reliability primarily by reducing oil dependency. This goal included a decision to speed up the exploitation of domestic reserves of oil and natural gas in the Danish part of the North Sea;
  • creating a muli-tiered supply system based, as far as possible, on Danish energy resources;
  • saving energy and reducing the growth rate of energy consumption by efficiency improvements in both production and consumption, and by subsidizing conservation efforts;
  • preparing a district heating plan outlining the most efficient way of heating residences in the different parts of the country;
  • implementing taxes on energy; and
  • pushing for more R & D in energy related issues.

Coal was to replace a substantial part of the oil used in electricity generation and from the late 1970s to 1984, a substantial part of the power stations substituted oil with coal. Mountains of imported coal replaced fleets of oil tankers, and already in 1980, coal consumption was twice as high as oil consumption (measured in heat units). Another important goal was to establish a natural gas system as a new tier in the energy supply.

Renewables on the other hand were only expected to generate less than five per cent of the power supply to Danish homes. The government and energy planners had no plan for renewables other than small wind turbines generating power for one or two households in the countryside, typically a farmhouse. This attitude was in line with the technological possibilities in the 1980s.

Nuclear power was popular at the time and Danish Energy Policy 1976 proposed it as another new tier. Production at the first nuclear power station was scheduled to begin in 1985. This, however, never happened. In May 1976, the political climate was generally in favour of nuclear power, although there were some doubts among its supporters of whether all problems, especially the waste problem, had been satisfactorily solved. Natural gas did not enjoy complete support as questions were raised about whether the most profitable solution would be to export the gas or to build a network in Denmark to supply industry and citizens in those parts of the country located near the transmission grid.

The nuclear power issue caused so many controversies that the final decision dragged on. A strong voice in the public debate fiercely opposed ← 484 | 485 → nuclear power of security reasons. Another disagreement was about whether the government or the electricity utilities should own the power stations. The government favoured the first solution, while the energy sector promoted the second one.

Nuclear power – no thanks

Three months after the government tabled Danish Energy Policy 1976, a group of engineers and social scientists published Sketch of an Alternative Energy Plan for Denmark.3 The nuclear program included in the official plan triggered this plan recommending an energy mix without atomic power and a small increase in the use of renewables.4

As indicated, the controversial issue was the inclusion of atomic power in the energy planning. The opposition to nuclear power was rooted in the left wing protest in the late 1950s and early 1960s against nuclear weapons.5 Without going into details with this part of the history, the campaign against atomic power mirrored the fear for nukes and put a strong focus on hazardous waste from nuclear power generation. Combined with a growing awareness of environmental problems, the anti-nuclear power discourse grew popular in the 1970s and succeeded in putting on hold the decision of introducing atomic power into the Danish energy system.

One of the driving forces in the rise of anti-nuclear power sentiments was the NGO called OOA, Organisationen til Oplysning om Atomkraft (Organisation for Information about Nuclear Power), formed in 1974 as an offspring of the environmental group NOAH (1969). OOA raised three issues for debate: the risk of large accidents, the disposal of radioactive waste, and the possible use of plutonium from nuclear power generation in atomic bombs.6

While OOA focused on problems related to nuclear power, a new organization, OVEOrganisationen for Vedvarende Energi (The ← 485 | 486 → Organisation for Information about Renewables) – was formed in 1975. In the public debate, OVE was not as visible and as well-known as OOA, but it played a positive role in promoting renewables and conducting technological experiments especially with wind turbines.7

The public engagement in the debate on nuclear power was substantial. Not only the two NGO’s took part, also many other organizations and groups participated as well.

Among the pros, the power stations were eager to build nuclear power plants in Denmark. At first, in the 1960s, the Association of Power Stations in Western Denmark, Elsam, objected to the introduction of nukes because the association dreaded that it would pave the way for state intervention in the electricity sector. But in the following decade, Elsam realized that state influence would be indispensable if nuclear power would become a reality in Denmark. By shifting opinion and defending nuclear energy, Elsam ran into strong skepticism and critique.

In the parliament, the Conservative and Liberal parties were in favour of nuclear power. On the left wing, many members had contact with OOA or OVE, and they all wanted a ban on nukes. Originally, the governing Social Democrats sympathized with the idea that nuclear power was a far-sighted way of addressing the ever-growing demand for more energy. However, the party was also aware of the need for a positively safe and secure power supply. Therefore, the Social Democrats lent an ear to the critique from OOA, OVE and other anti-nuclear power voices.

Consequently, in 1976, the Social Democratic government decided to postpone the plan for establishing four atomic power stations from 1985 to 1993 and two more in the late 1990s. The introduction of nuclear power once again was tabled three years later, now as a part of a new government coalition’s energy policy. The Social Democrats and the Liberal party reached a compromise on the future energy supply: the first preferred natural gas, and the second opted for nuclear power, and both options were included in the new and updated energy plan of 1979. However, the government proved to be short-lived, and when the Social Democrats took over, nuclear power once again was put on a hold and, in 1986, finally excluded from the future energy planning.

You can point at a number of reasons why Denmark did not get nuclear power. First, the anti-nuclear power movement had wide support and was successful in convincing the center-left parties in the Parliament that the introduction of nuclear power was very risky and that nuclear ← 486 | 487 → waste would pose a danger to the future. Secondly, the pro-nuclear power experts did not meet street credibility, and, finally, industrial interests seemed reluctant opting for nuclear power.8

The alternative plan

The alternative energy plan was in accordance with widespread popular sentiments over nuclear power even if it was not meant to become a crowd-pleaser. Its authors wanted to present to decision-makers a concrete and convincing plan for a future energy system without nuclear power. As a by-product, they also pleaded for a society with a lower growth rate, according to the recommendation of the Club of Rome and The Limits to Growth (1972).

The plan accepted the governmental forecast for the annual economic growth during the following 20 years9 but predicted a lower growth of the gross energy consumption.10 The difference was due to the extent of energy saving measures. Besides that, the alternative plan suggested

on the supply side to replace atomic power with an extended use of renewables combined with an increase in the use of natural gas, especially in local CHP stations. The use of coal and oil amounted to the same as in the government plan;

on the demand side to make more efforts in energy saving, to encourage efficiency with financial incentives, energy taxes and tighter norms. The plan also recommends various measures to reduce the growth of personal transportation by car and to increase the use of collective transportation.11

The long-term prospect was to create a green society, i.e. a society based only on renewables.

If we compare the energy mix in the two plans, the main difference is whether nuclear power is included or not. ← 487 | 488 →

Figure 1. The energy mix in the alternative and official plan. Forecast of planned distribution of primary fuels in 1995

img93

The small amount of renewables in the two proposals stems from the fact that the renewable energy sources were not commercially available at competitive prices. In addition, the integration of wind and solar power into the existing grid was a big challenge. The alternative plan was aware of the problem but could only recommend exporting the surplus wind power to Sweden and Norway while the two country’s water reservoirs were filling up, and, vice versa, using hydro-electricity in periods of insufficient wind.12

The two plans never got into dialogue with each other. The controversial issue was atomic power, but if this topic is left out of account, the plans only differed slightly. The governmental plan anticipated a higher growth rate while the alternative plan favoured low growth and decentralization scenarios. As the Parliament opted out of the nukes, the alternative energy narrative focused more and more on these ideas. ← 488 | 489 →

Fine-tuning

From 1979 onwards, the Danish Energy Policy 1976 was implemented. The Parliament approved the setting up of a natural gas system, which would be based on gas from the North Sea and begin on 1 October 1984. At the same time, the parliament adopted the earlier mentioned Heating Supply Act in order to promote the most efficient use of energy to generate heating for private homes and other buildings.

The second oil crisis became reality when the Shah of Iran, in January 1979, fled the Islamic revolution and the clerics came to power. The conflict between the two parties had the effect of drastically reducing the amount of oil produced. Even if the other OPEC countries partially compensated for the decline in Iranian production, the result was a rapid increase in oil prices on the world market. Prices almost doubled compared with the highest price in 1973-74 and OPEC prices reached USD 41 a barrel in 1980.

At that time, Denmark had become less dependent on oil. In 1978, oil represented 78 per cent of the total energy consumption, which once again was increasing. The new energy minister, Poul Nielson13 adjusted the energy planning on several points. First of all, he wanted a more direct and comprehensive governmental regulation of the energy sector.14 A new energy plan – Energy Plan 81 – was approved in 1981 and it signaled a strong commitment to improve supply security by speeding up the exploitation of domestic energy sources, i.e. the production of oil and natural gas in the North Sea. As mentioned, nuclear power was put on hold in January 1980. The plan also recommended an expansion of Combined Heat and Power and it outlined a possible addition of 60,000 wind turbines, which were believed to be able to cover up to 10 per cent of the electricity consumption.

Figure 2. The energy mix in the Energy Plan 81 and in the alternative plan 1983, forecast for 2000

img94

← 489 | 490 →

Two years later, in 1983, a new alternative plan was published. As nuclear power was put on hold in the official planning, the group could strongly argue not only for a greening of the energy mix, but also for a new type of society with decentralized decision-making and a new understanding of growth.

The group seriously disagreed with the official plan on the future development of the Danish society. Instead, the plan anticipated a lower growth of GDP and, consequently, a reduced energy consumption.

The plan claimed that four tendencies would characterize the future society:

  • A substantial slowdown of the demand for material goods due to a substantial change in consumer culture;
  • Reduced working hours and more spare time as well as improvements of social benefits and a more even income distribution. Thus, more people could afford insulation of their homes;
  • Growing awareness of environmental issues;
  • Stagnant population.

This was in contrast to the official plan, which calculated a 2 to 3.7 per cent average annual growth of the GDP.

In spite of this more radical view on the future, the energy mix has not changed to any appreciable extent. The alternative to atomic power was natural gas, not renewables, which amounted to 12 per cent like five years earlier.

More important, the alternative plan claimed that in 2012, the consumption of fossil fuels would be reduced to 66 per cent of the 1982-consumption, and coal and oil use would be reduced to a fifth of the level in 1982. On the top of it, the natural gas in the Danish part of the North Sea should be produced at a slower pace than anticipated in the official plan. Renewables would cover a fourth of the total energy consumption in 2010.

The alternative plan aimed at a Danish energy system completely based on renewables, primarily wind power and biomass (wood, straw, waste). All in all, the focus in the plan changed from suggesting an alternative energy mix to a narrative in which a greener energy mix went hand in hand with a decentralization of the society and more popular influence on the energy supply. At that time, wind turbines were small and fitted well to private consumers, and the alternative narrative advocated a society in which the citizens had a direct impact on the energy supply in contrast to the ongoing centralization of power generation. ← 490 | 491 →

A new discourse

Wind power soon showed signs of becoming more popular. The interest in wind power originated partly from idealistic engineers and scientists, partly from left-wing NGOs. They had in common an affiliation to the folk high school, a non-formal adult education.15 A very early prototype of a modern wind turbine was built in 189116 and the technological break-thorough took place in 1957 in the wake of the Suez-crisis. The so-called Gedser turbine turned out to pave the way for Denmark’s position as the world lead in wind technology.17

Shortly after the first oil crisis, a new generation of small wind turbines18 was made available for sale and the idea of alternative energy resources found its way to commercial companies. In 1976, the first modern wind turbine appeared in the landscape and in 1979, the Danish company Vestas began producing wind turbines.

The existing power companies opposed wind power, as they found it too expensive and too cumbersome, but in accordance with the guidelines in Energy Plan 81, the utilities agreed with the energy minister on an expansion of wind power by 100 MW. However, the extremely low prices during the third oil crisis in the mid-1980s were devastating for wind power. Vestas, for example, almost went bankrupt when California phased out its subsidy for wind turbines in 1986.19

The Brundtland Report created a new discourse with the concept of sustainable development and its demands for energy conservation and renewable energy. The report was published in 1987 and had immediate impact on Danish energy policy as the center-right government proposed a new energy plan in 1990, Energy 2000, which included ambitious targets for reducing energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Why did this turnaround happen? ← 491 | 492 →

First, the parliamentary situation was complicated and next to incomprehensible. Four center-right parties were in power as a minority government, supported by the small party, the Social Liberals.

The two biggest parties, the Conservatives and the Liberals, clearly dominated the alliance and although the Liberals in general had approved the energy policy since 1976, the government was only to a small degree concerned with environmental issues. The Social Liberals supported the government in most of its policy areas, but when it came to energy, environmental topics and some other issues, the Social Liberals joined the parliamentary opposition and overruled the government.20

In 1988, a serious controversy on security policy matters convinced conservative the Prime Minister, Poul Schlüter, that a general election was required to sort out the messy parliamentary composition. As a result of the election, the Conservatives, the Liberals and the Social liberals formed a new government. The Social Liberals were inspired by the Brundtland report and succeeded in having two of the members appointed as minister for energy and minister for Environment. It was a smart choice as they could support each other in implementing the recommendations propounded in the Brundtland report.

Six months later, the government tabled an action plan for environment and development as a follow-up of the Brundtland report. This step proved to be important as it in the spirit of the recommendations in the report closely connected environment and energy use – or focused on energy’s impact on environment. The goal was a sustainable development and the halving of the energy consumption per capita before 2020. The Danish action plan followed suit and proposed that sustainability considerations were “to permeate the entire political and administrative structure, and eventually society as a whole.”21

The accentuation of the interconnectivity between environment and energy was important as a point of departure in the Social Liberal’s fight for a cleaner environment because it committed the entire government to a new energy policy. Time was on the side of thinking energy in the light of sustainability. The opposition to nuclear power had prevailed and the popular awareness of negative aspects of energy was still alive, i.e. there was some momentum in fighting for a greener world.22 ← 492 | 493 →

Therefore, a close co-operation between the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Energy had an open window of opportunity for changing the framework for energy policy and the way it came into being.

In spite of having established a new office specializing in renewables, neither the government nor the administration had sufficient expertise in dealing with energy from a sustainability point of view. This expertise could be found in the NGO’s, especially anti-nuclear power organisation (OOA), the Organisation for Renewable Energy (OVE), and a local NGO called Center for renewable energy in North-Western Jutland, the most windy area of Denmark.

After the approval of the action plan for environment and development, the energy minister in the center-right government, Jens Bilgrav-Nielsen, contacted those NGOs and included them in the work of designing a new energy policy along with the group behind the alternative energy plans.23 Especially the group of energy researchers at the universities took active part in the preparation of the new energy action plan and produced 11 reports and a comprehensive summary of the reports suggesting a holistic perspective on the energy supply and consumption. In this action plan, they outlined in detail how to diminish in ten years the use of fossil fuels by 50 per cent with an increased use of renewables, energy conservation, and a more efficient energy supply.24

Including NGOs in the policy formulation was an innovation. The existing praxis was limited to stakeholders with direct and active engagement in the energy sector. The policy framework and the regulatory regime constructed after the first oil crisis were designed in co-operation with the utilities and their association, with the association of distribution companies, and the natural gas companies. Quite a few controversies characterized this co-operation, but the bottom-line was that all stakeholders were satisfied with the outcome. The energy companies were not excluded from the law making process between 1988 and 1990, but the minister wanted input from other parties in order to improve the competences in his administration and subsequently map out a balanced policy, which could carry all the way through the government and parliament.25

The utilities were not happy about the participation of the NGOs, but working together in sub-committees and at two conferences, one in 1989 ← 493 | 494 → and one immediately before the presentation of the new energy plan, eased the tensions between the parties.26

Energy 2000

The new action plan changed the Danish energy planning from giving priority to supply security to placing energy’s impact on the environment on the top of the political agenda. Energy saving, improved efficiency, and “cleaner” energy were the main targets of the future energy sector. The term cleaner energy indicated that renewables – especially wind and biomass – in combination with natural gas were planned to be the backbone in the energy mix, thus reducing the negative effect of diversification and the reintroduction of coal as the main fuel in electricity generation.27

The plan also set the scene for a more active use of energy taxes and for a more active and serious participation in international institutions for the purpose of paving the way for a sustainable development.28 Sustainability had irrevocably entered the vocabulary of Danish energy planning, and the government had paved the way for Denmark’s international position as one of the frontrunners in greening the energy sector. There was a long way to go, however, as the response to the energy crises of the 1970s turned Denmark into one of the world’s most CO2 emitting countries.29

The action plan listed a number of specific targets:

  • Reduction of the gross energy consumption by 15 per cent.
  • Increase of the consumption of natural gas by 170 per cent and of renewables by 100 per cent.
  • Increase of the consumption of renewable energy by 100 per cent.
  • Reduction of the consumption of coal by 45 per cent and of oil by 40 per cent.
  • Reduction of the CO2 emission by at least 20 per cent in 2005 relative to the 1988 level.
  • Further reductions of SO2 and NOx emissions.30

In line with the Brundtland report, the action plan attached special importance to the energy sector’s contribution the emission of CO2 and the need for coordinated solutions taking into account all aspects of the ← 494 | 495 → energy sectors impact on the environment. The plan also underlined that the transition of the sector should be achieved in the most cost effective and environmentally responsible way.31

The statement that the action plan would prove to be financially advantageous was indispensable if the government should back the plan. In reality, like all forecasting, it was hard to prove.32 Putting Denmark on a sustainable track was far more important.

Follow-up

The following years, the Danish governments took a number of initiatives emanating from Energy 2000 or launched new initiatives amplifying the plan. The most important proposals were:33

Extension of small-scale Combined heat and Power (CHP);

CO2 tax but also some subsidies in connection with conversion to CHP;

Green taxes on households;

Efficiency standards for appliances, and energy labelling; and

Biomass action plan.

The purpose was to facilitate the de-carbonization of the energy sector and in the long run contribute to a sustainable development.

Concluding remarks

Would it be reasonable to characterize the U-turn in Danish energy planning in 1990 as a coincidence due to the fact that the country got a new energy minister responsive to the international climate debate and the recommendations advanced in the Brundtland report?

Yes, it is a part of the explanation. The inclusion of the Social liberals into the center-right government opened a window of opportunity for an adjustment of the energy policy and planning to the recommendations in the Brundtland Report. This environmental perspective on the energy sector was the first serious step towards a greening of power generation in Denmark and contributed to the country’s frontrunner position in the greening of energy production.

However, it is only a part of the explanation. A popular dissociation from nuclear power, a long tradition for conducting experiments on ← 495 | 496 → wind turbines combined with a group of energy planners at some of the Danish universities, and a wide interest in environmental issues are also part of a causal explanation of the changed focus. And when it comes to the implementation of Energy 2000 the regulatory framework developed after the 1973-crisis proved to be of great value and indispensable to the transformation of the energy sector in accordance with the sustainability approach.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the difference between the official and the alternative narratives was quite small and can be boiled down to a disagreement on nuclear power and to the importance of renewables in the energy mix. When nuclear power was excluded from the energy planning, and the official planning followed the recommendations in the Brundtland Report, the focus changed. The official plans were still embedded in a growth scenario with a strong regulative regime fencing in the market forces, while the alternative plans argued for a decentralized energy sector and a low or no growth scenario. That was the case in the 1990s – and it still is the case today.


1 Mogens Rüdiger, DONG og energien (Copenhagen: Handelshøjskolens Forlag, 1998).

2 The first report was published in 1974.

3 Two NGOs – OOA and OVE – supported the publication: see below.

4 Susanne Blegaa et al., Skitse til en alternativ energiplan for Danmark (Copenhagen: OOA, 1976). The plan is introduced in English in Susanne Blegaa et al., “Alternative Danish energy planning,” Energy Policy 5/2 (June 1977): 87-94.

5 Flemming Petersen, Atomalder uden kernekraft. Forsøget på at indføre atomkraft i Danmark 1954-1985 set i et internationalt perspektiv (Aarhus: Klim, 1996) gives an account of the history of the nuclear power in Denmark and relates it to international examples of using nukes in the energy supply. The Danish opposition to nuclear weapons was inspired by the British (and international) Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

6 Bent Sørensen, A History of Energy. Northern Europe from the Stone Age to the Present Day (Abingdon, New York: Earthscan/Routledge, 2011), 468.

7 In 1976, a pro nuclear power group established REO – Reel Energi Oplysning, Real (or reliable) Energy Information. In 2012, the group was renamed to Ren Energi Oplysning, Clean Energy Information.

8 Petersen, Atomalder, 210.

9 3.5-4 per cent per year.

10 The official plan predicted a growth rate at 1.2 per cent from 1975 to 1985 and 2.7 per cent for 1985 to 1995; the figure in the alternative plan was 1.5 per cent in average. The plans do not include shipping and air transportation.

11 Blegaa et al., Skitse, 10.

12 Blegaa et al., Alternative, 92 ff.

13 Poul Nielson was appointed in October 1979 as the very first energy minister in Denmark.

14 Transportation and downstream activities were exemptions from this state regulation.

15 Non-formal means that there are no academic requirements for admittance and there are no exams.

16 The turbine was designed by Poul La Cour, a physics professor at the Askov Folk High School.

17 Sørensen, History, 388-390. See Flemming Petersen, Det danske vindmølleeventyr (Copenhagen: Fysikforlaget, 2007) for a comprehensive history of the wind turbine in Denmark.

18 Christian Riisager, a trained carpenter, down-scaled and improved the Gedser turbine to a 7 kW and then to a 22 kW version, first sold in 1976 (Sørensen, History, 396).

19 Mogens Rüdiger, Moving Energy Forward (Copenhagen: DONG Energy, 2014), 108; Danish Energy Agency, Denmark’s Energy Futures (Copenhagen: Miljøministeriet, 1996), 37.

20 This very odd situation was coined The Alternative Majority.

21 Regeringens handlingsplan for miljø og udvikling (Copenhagen: Miljøministeriet 1988) Danish Energy Agency, Energy Futures, 38.

22 Interview with former Minister of Energy Jens Bilgrav-Nielsen (21 May 2015).

23 Ibid.

24 Serup et al. (1989).

25 Interview, Bilgrav-Nielsen (21 May 2015).

26 Ibid.

27 The Ministry of Energy, Energi 2000. Handlingsplan for en bæredygtig udvikling, Copenhagen: Energiministeriet), 89-102; cf. Rüdiger, Moving.

28 Ibid., 105.

29 Ibid.; cf. Rüdiger, Moving.

30 Danish Energy Agency, Energy Futures, 38.

31 Ibid.

32 Interview, Bilgrav-Nielsen (21 May 2015).

33 Danish Energy Agency, Energy Futures, 39.