IEA review: Denmark a clean energy leader on the path toward net zero

Published 05-12-2023

Denmark’s ambitions for offshore wind, biomethane and district heating are reshaping the country’s energy system and reinforcing Denmark’s image as an early leader in decarbonization, a new in-depth policy review by the IEA states.

Denmark was the first country to build an offshore wind farm and more than 30 years on, the technological transformation of Denmark’s energy system is still inspiring countries around the world, according to a new in-depth policy review by the International Energy Agency, IEA.

Read "IEA Energy Policies of Denmark 2023" here

In 2022, Denmark enjoyed the highest share of wind electricity – 54 percent – among IEA members, which together with bioenergy and solar accounted for around 80 percent of the country’s power mix.

”The IEA review serves as a mirror, reflecting both Denmark's successes and the challenges ahead. Denmark, especially in the energy sector, is evidently on the right track and has made significant progress since the last IEA report. Achieving our ambitious climate goals will require continued hard work. We remain committed to the task without resting on our laurels. For those interested in learning from Denmark’s experiences, this report provides a valuable starting point,” says Lars Aagaard, Minister of Climate, Energy and Utilities.

From black to green energy
Denmark has taken many steps to phase out fossil fuels on the way to net zero emissions and beyond. For instance, the political ambition is to fully replace natural gas with biomethane by 2030 at the latest. There are also plans to increase offshore wind capacity as well as onshore wind and solar beyond domestic needs.

“We will need abundant green power, full-scale CCS in hard-to-abate sectors, and renewable fuels. We must succeed to reach our climate goals and help our European neighbors reach theirs. It requires strong international cooperation for green power, green hydrogen and carbon dioxide to flow across borders”, says Lars Aagaard.

The IEA report recommends that Denmark review best practices for fast tracking permitting, including a one-stop shop for onshore wind developers. It also recommends making the most use of existing infrastructure when developing new projects, and, if new infrastructure has to be built, quickly decide on ownership and responsibilities. Denmark has recently taken steps to meet both recommendations.

Strong focus on yearly delivery
A unique tool for policy implementation, Denmark’s Climate Year Wheel anchored in the Climate Act of 2020 is highlighted by the IEA review as a best practice, serving as an inspiration for other countries in supporting the delivery of policy actions year after year toward targets.

The IEA report states that Denmark will require additional measures, particularly in the transport and buildings sectors, as well as infrastructure rollout, to achieve its ambitious climate goals. In Denmark’s Climate Programme 2023, a comprehensive green work programme was introduced, outlining individual sector-specific plans on how to attain these objectives.

Denmark’s Climate Act implements a political agreement setting a legally binding target of reducing national greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent in 2030 from 1990 levels, with the aim of making Denmark a climate-neutral society by 2050. The current government has proposed to advance the goal of climate neutrality to 2045 and to achieve a 110 percent emissions reduction by 2050.

Denmark’s energy mix (2022)

  • Among IEA countries, Denmark had the highest share of wind electricity – 54% – in 2022. Together with bioenergy and solar, wind accounted for around 80% of the power mix.
  • The district heating sector has practically phased out coal, contributing to lowering the reliance on fossil fuels in Denmark’s total energy supply from 75% in 2011 to 53% in 2022, much below the IEA average of 79%. District heating covers 70% of residential space heating.

IEA Energy Policy Review

  • The International Energy Agency’s Energy Policy Reviews help governments design the most impactful energy and climate policies. Reviews spot leadership examples and promote exchange of best practices among countries to foster learning, build consensus and strengthen political will for a sustainable and affordable clean energy future.