Denmark's northern port of Frederikshavn intends to be solely powered by renewable energy within seven years. Wind power is expected to generate 30% of the city's electricity needs. The city's current level of green energy is only 24%. The business sector's investments in the project are estimated at between DKK1 to DKK1.5 billion.
We have set our goal by 2015 to be the first city in the world to run on alternative energy, Frederikshavn Mayor Erik Soerensen said.
The idea came when Frederikshavn was sucked dry a decade ago by the closure of the shipyards, which left 7,000 people jobless, Soerensen said.
At the time we decided to fight for our survival, to find innovative solutions with companies to create new opportunities and jobs. And this project is part of our survival strategy, Soerensen said.
Mikael Kau, the head of the Frederikshavn Energy City project started in 2008 by the city council, concedes that it’s an ambitious, pioneer project that presents a real challenge.
Still Kau is convinced that the transformation is possible in such a short time. He dreams of seeing homes, schools, businesses, administrations and vehicles getting their heating, electricity and fuel from wind and solar energy, and biogas made from wastewater and agricultural waste.
It’s important for every person to assume their responsibility in the fight against global warming, in a world where the enormous consumption of fossil fuels threatens living conditions on Earth, Soerensen said.
Businesses, led by Dong Energy A/S, have already signed on to the project and want to invest, which is crucial for its success, Kau said.
Frederikshavn as a ‘green city’ will provide opportunities for new environmental technology and jobs, Soerensen said.
Things started moving in 2006 when Danish energy experts selected Frederikshavn as the ideal location to start an experimental laboratory and show other cities around the world that it is possible to transform consumption of fossil fuels into 100 percent renewable energy in just a few years with existing technology, Soerensen said.
The steady flow of dire climate reports have only confirmed authorities’ resolve. Something had to be done and we couldn’t wait for the whole world to act, said.
The next step was to win over public support, said Marie Halgaard Nielsen, a public liaison official on the project, since people wonder whether it’s all worth it and want to know if it will create jobs and growth.
There are sceptics, but also visionaries who are very passionate about the project, Hans Carlsen, a 54-year-old resident, said at a recent town hall debate to promote the initiative.
Grethe Nielsen, a resident, said It’s a good idea, a necessary one that opens our eyes to other sources of energy than oil — which will run out one day.
But retired heating technician Niels Andersen said everything will depend on Copenhagen’s political willingness to lift the roadblocks that could endanger the success of the project.
For Flemming Soerensen, director of the nearby Strandby heating plant that has 640 solar panels turned toward the sky, a key roadblock is Danish car taxes which he feels must be cut. The Danish government has refused to reduce taxes on hybrid cars, which are about DKK20,000 more expensive than petrol cars.
It’s hard to ask people to change cars and pay more. Danish car taxes, which are among the highest in Europe, don’t incite motorists to drive green cars, Soerensen said.
Yet Soerensen wants to believe in the project.
We can succeed if we want and if we get outside help, Soerensen stressed.
Denmark’s first biofuel pump station is due to open in Frederikshavn in September 2009.