NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Wind Power Doesn't Live Up to Hype in Denmark

July 25, 2011

President Obama has praised the Danes for their aggressive wind power program, telling an Earth Day audience in Iowa:  "Today, America produces less than 3 percent of our electricity through renewable sources like wind and solar... In comparison, Denmark produces almost 20 percent of their electricity through wind power."  The U.S. Energy Information Administration says, "Denmark ranks ninth in the world in wind power capacity, but generates about 20 percent of its electricity from wind."  That sounds impressive, but is it true, asks Kenneth P. Green, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Not according to Danish think tank CEPOS, which issued a 2009 report entitled "Wind Energy, the case of Denmark."  CEPOS found that rather than generating 20 percent of its energy from wind:

  • Denmark generates the equivalent of about 19 percent of its electricity demand with wind turbines, but wind power contributes far less than 19 percent of the nation's electricity demand.
  • The claim that Denmark derives about 20 percent of its electricity from wind overstates matters.
  • Being highly intermittent, wind power has recently (2006) met as little as 5 percent of Denmark's annual electricity consumption with an average over the last five years of 9.7 percent.

The CEPOS study revealed that while Denmark can only produce and consume as much wind power as it does due to a convenient circumstance: neighboring countries have hydropower that can quickly and effectively balance the flow of electricity on their energy grid, allowing Denmark to export surplus wind capacity.

With regard to green jobs, CEPOS found "that the effect of the government subsidy has been to shift employment from more productive employment in other sectors to less productive employment in the wind industry.  As a consequence, Danish GDP is approximately DKK1.8 billion ($270 million) lower than it would have been if the wind-sector workforce was employed elsewhere."

Source: Kenneth P. Green, "Rotten Wind in the State of Denmark," The American, July 18, 2011.

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