Danish Climate and Energy minister Rasmus Helveg Petersen says his department is considering the prospect of completely removing coal from its energy mix within a decade.

The head of the IEA Clean Coal Centre, has responded by calling the Danish claim ‘misguided’, pointing out that the country will continue to import coal from its neighbours.

Petersen said, “Of course this is something we will do together with the industry. I don’t know how we can reach this goal, but I would like to find out if we, for example, can forbid using coal,” Petersen told Danish broadcaster DR. 

The minister went on to say that while coal-fired power is the cheapest fuel today, countries won’t be able to afford using it in the long run. “There’s no longer a scenario where we would be able to continue using coal,” he said.
Danish Climate and Energy minister Rasmus Helveg Petersen
Petersen’s comments come ahead of the UN’s Climate Panel in Copenhagen this week, to draft the organisation’s latest report on climate change, to be published over the weekend. 

There is opposition to his comments. Lars Aagaard, director for Danish Energy, the energy companies’ industry association, said that closing down coal plant would increase the import of German coal. Instead, he advised the minister to call for a tightening of of the EU’s emission’s trading system (ETS) in order to limit the number of pollution permits.

“The Climate Minister won’t succeed with a call for phasing out coal in Europe. It’s not possible. A big part of the European energy supply is deeply dependent on coal, and will continue to be so for years to come,” he said.

20 per cent of Denmark’s current energy supply comes from coal, 40 per cent comes from oil and gas, while another 30 per cent comes from wind energy

Dr Andrew Minchener, General Manager of the IEA Clean Coal Centre told Power Engineering International that he takes issue with the Danish interpretation of ‘going coal-free’.

“Denmark is also dependent on imported power, with its grid connected to Norway and Sweden in the East and Germany in the West. It is also dependent on coal imports to fuel various non-power industries, some of which cannot be readily adapted to be coal free. The power import is becoming increasingly important as the proportion of intermittent renewables in the system increases to a very high level, and has to be balanced by a steady power source that can be brought into operation quickly when the lack of renewables to meet demand occurs.”

Dr Minchener acknowledged that Danish energy policy was motivated by a desire to take the lead in meeting the European Union’s renewable energy goals, but ignored certain realities.

“This approach will have to be underwritten with the power imports from other Scandinavian countries as well as Germany. For the latter, this will primarily be coal-based, so it is rather misguided to declare a country to be  coal free when it is importing coal based power. For the non-power sector, details of the industries to be affected are required in order to better judge the validity of the approach.”

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