In 2014, Denmark set a world record as wind power provided 39.1% of the country’s total electricity consumption. The small European nation committed itself to wind energy in the late 1970s and never looked back – installing nearly 4900 MW of wind energy capacity between then and 2014.
Denmark’s example has destroyed the idea that smaller-scale and variable renewable energy sources cannot support an entire nation’s energy consumption. Because of this unyielding commitment to renewable energy technology, Denmark is well on track to meet its 2020 target of 50% of national electricity consumption served by wind power, as well as their 2050 target to eliminate reliance on fossil fuels entirely.
Ontario also had a record year for wind energy, with this rapidly expanding technology supplying 5.5% of electricity consumed in the province. This includes both the large-scale installments and smaller-scale local “embedded” wind. While this growth is promising, we have only scratched the surface of what is possible for wind energy and renewables generally in the province.
So what can Ontario learn from Denmark’s history of wind power to keep this renewable energy momentum going?
To start, Ontario must stand firm in its commitment to its legislation enabling renewable energy development in the province. The Green Energy & Economy Act, 2009, and accompanying Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) program may have had some growing pains, but the FIT program has now hit its stride and is working to provide countless opportunities for individuals, communities, and First Nations groups to get involved in the renewable energy transition.
Ontario must continue to support a renewable energy economy. Denmark, an established leader in the wind turbine industry, exported €5.6 billion ($7.8 billion CAD) in wind energy exports in 2010 and saw over 24000 individuals working in the field. Wind and other renewables have already created thousands of jobs in Ontario and across the country, and we should continue to grow and embrace these opportunities.
Ontario must also support Community Power co-operatives as a means to involve the public in the development of renewable energy and increase capacity as a result. This model is working in Denmark, with 75% of wind energy developments co-operatively owned, and relatedly, public support for wind energy as a nation is at 91%. Co-operative renewable energy not only keeps energy development local and improves attitudes toward this technology; it also helps communities to see economic benefits from returns on their investments.
What Denmark’s history demonstrates is that a commitment to wind (and other renewables) can transform an energy system, given the time, political will, and public support. Ontario is seeing such promising growth in the renewable energy sector – by continuing to diversify our power supply, invest in a green economy, support community involvement in the sector, we too can realize our potential as a renewable energy leader.