By Ann Scheerer
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Svend Auken, Denmark's former Minister of Energy and the Environment, helped transform his country's economy from nearly total dependence on foreign oil to its current position as exporter of sustainable energy. On June 9, Auken spoke at a Seattle City Hall brown bag lunch where he described the remarkable transformation of Denmark's energy systems and, as a result, the birth of an alternative energy economy. He described how he sees such a transformation taking place now in the United States in the face of climate change and peak oil tipping points.
Auken shared key strategies the Danish government used to strengthen their country's economy and establish energy self-reliance to revitalize the country by gaining energy independence.
Worldchanging has commented before on Denmark's Path to Energy Independence, but here’s what Auken himself had to say to Seattleites about what has worked in Denmark:
Focus on drastic reduction in consumption at the source. Not only are there major financial incentives for reducing personal consumption, there are also incentives to replace old equipment with newer, more efficient technologies for energy generation and transmission at existing power plants.
Charge a CO2 tax on carbon emissions to raise funds for energy conservation financial incentives. This tax fund provides incentives for energy conservation and clean technologies.
Use municipal waste and other sources of biomass as a fuel source for power generation. Instead of taking up landfill space for solid waste, the Danes have found that incineration of solid waste is a most efficient source of fuel.
Create policies and programs to encourage clean technologies in the marketplace. The development of clean technologies will create a more hopeful energy future and strengthen the economy. By focusing on wind power, waste incineration, and the burning of non-edible biofuel such as straw and wood, Denmark has successfully made renewable energy products and services one of its top exports.
Consider district-scale combined heating and power utilities. This is a successful model of a localized closed-loop energy system combining heat and power services to further reduce consumption.
His final piece of advice: Act “locally, globally, locally.”
Locally: The U.S. needs to step up and focus on renewable energy strategies - such as wind, tidal, biomass, solar - from the grassroots up.
Globally: The U.S. can and must lead the world in developing renewable energy policies, systems and technologies, and share the benefits with the developing world. Auken straightforwardly urges the US to develop regulations and incentives with a strong cap and trade component, incentives for new technologies, and massive transfer to developing countries.
Locally: We must not wait for the market to react. We must create alliances and technologies to create local solutions. We must combine political with market forces to create the conditions in this most important call to action.