September 27, 2005

Some errors concerning Danish energy

To the Editor, Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.):

Tapan Munroe is right that we have much to learn from Denmark about efficient energy use, but a couple of statements in his Sept. 25 piece are incorrect.

Where he writes, "Nearly 20 percent of the country's energy comes from wind power," it should be noted that wind turbines produce only electricity, which represents only 18.3% of Denmark's total energy use according to an energy flow chart for 2003 from the Danish Energy Authority. Twenty percent of the electricity therefore represents less than 4% of the total energy.

But because the turbines produce power in response to the wind rather than actual demand, much of it -- 84% of western Denmark's wind production in 2003, by one analysis -- has to be exported (i.e., dumped) because it is not needed. Despite a landscape already saturated with turbines, it appears therefore that they produce only about 3% of the electricity Denmark uses.

Munroe also implies that Denmark's economy is not fossil fuel based. In fact, they are more fossil fuel based than the U.S. According to the Danish energy flow chart, 93.6% of their energy supply is from oil, natural gas, and coal. Much of the oil and natural gas is exported, and all of the coal is imported. In balance, fossil fuels (primarily coal) supply 89.1% of the total energy Denmark uses and 88.3% of its electricity.

In comparison, an energy flow chart from the U.S. Department of Energy for 2002 shows that fossil fuels are the source of 88.0% of our total energy and 69.6% of our electricity.

The Danes use their energy much more wisely and don't have domestic nuclear power, but they are nonetheless very much reliant on fossil fuels, and large-scale wind power has hardly changed a thing other than ruining the countryside.

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