Wind power is officially the cheapest source of energy in Denmark.
Tomasz Sienicki / Wikimedia
Wind power is officially the cheapest source of energy in Denmark, according to the nation's government—and by 2016, it claims the electricity whipped up by its newest turbines will be half the price of fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.
Denmark's Energy Association (everything about Scandinavia is friendlier, even its DEA) announced the news last week, and it's an achievement worth highlighting. Wind and solar are achieving grid parity with fossil fuels—that is, it's just as cheap—in many places around the world. Even without the tax breaks, declining manufacturing costs and growing scale have rendered wind power just as cheap as natural gas in many states right here in the gas-rich US. And at least one analyst determined that this is the "beginning of the grid parity era" for solar, worldwide.
But Denmark is blowing past grid parity and towards a scenario in which clean energy is actually much, much cheaper: When its two massive offshore wind farms come online, they'll be the nation's most inexpensive energy source by a wide margin, analysts say.
"Electricity from two new onshore wind power facilities set to begin operating in 2016 will cost around 5 euro cents per kilowatt-hour," Yale 360 explains. "Wind power would remain the cheapest energy option even if interest rates on wind power projects were to increase by 10 percent, the report found."
That's good news for a nation that's hoping to get 50 percent of its power from wind turbines by 2050. Right now, the nation already boasts an impressive clean energy mix of 43 percent.
"Wind power today is cheaper than other forms of energy, not least because of a big commitment and professionalism in the field," Rasmus Peterson, Denmark's energy minister, said at a press conference. "This is true for researchers, companies and politicians. We need a long-term and stable energy policy to ensure that renewable energy, both today and in the future, is the obvious choice."
Importantly, the DEA's analysis "was not based on a full cost-benefit assessment of different technologies that included an assessment of environmental benefits, taxes or subsidies." That is, the agency did not factor in the health and environmental costs of burning fossil fuels—which are considerable—and instead looked directly at the market forces in the country.
Natural gas and coal are much more expensive in Denmark than it is in the US, which helps make wind such an economic bargain, and the nation has explicitly pursued wind power for decades. But improving technology, falling costs, and the strong, consistently blowing offshore winds that will turn the new turbines are making the case airtight.
Yesterday brought the good news that Germany was meeting a full 28.5 percent of its energy needs with clean sources. Now Denmark is proving that running your nation on clean energy can be cheaper than we possibly could have imagined, even ten years ago.