From coal to green energy

Collaboration and common vision is the cornerstone in the climate plan. Copenhagen, Denmark

SDG 7: Affordable and clean energySDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities

The world is at a threshold and it is becoming urgent to move past fossil-fuels and towards green energy solutions. That shift requires collaboration between different stakeholders.  In 2011, Copenhagen had reduced CO2 emissions by 21% compared to 2005. Copenhagen’s Climate Director is responsible for carrying out the “CPH 2025 Climate Action Plan” in a collaborative effort between numerous stakeholders in the business community, research institutions and civil society organisations.


According to the Danish Energy Association, the major challenge in implementing green energy is the transformation from a coal-dependent energy supply into biomass, using the same infrastructure. Today coal and gas correspond to 25–30% of the energy supply in Denmark.  In order to comply with the climate action plan, Copenhagen needs to convert the energy supply and install wind turbines; the citizens must increase the use of bikes; the city will have to invest in buses that operate on electricity and biogas; buildings in Copenhagen must be energy retrofitted; the city will have to invest in more solar energy; along with numerous other initiatives. Several solutions are based on known technology that is just waiting to be implemented. In other areas, the city will need to focus on developing new technology in order to reach the goal.

Another challenge, in this readjustment, is the matter of cost. It ha generated a big national political debate in Denmark where  cities have higher ambition than the central government. Danes in general support a readjustment, they understand an even demand a green transition. Many are already paying high prices for energy, and a general philosophy is that “at that cost it better be green”. 

Good practices & solutions 

An important factor for successful solutions is cooperation between business community, central government, organisation from the civil society and research institutions. A main player in Denmark is the Danish Energy Association, which is a non-profit lobby organisation for Danish energy companies. They promote secure and fair conditions for competition in order to promote development, growth and well-being in Denmark. 

A cornerstone in the climate plan is a common vision and strive towards the same goal. In the 1990s a wind power vision was developed at the national political level. As a result, in 2020 the Danish parliament’s common goal is to reach a 50% wind power usage. The cooperation between businesses, industries, and politics have alongside collaboration across regional boundaries been crucial to be able to reach this goal.

Outcome & opportunities 

For the transition from coal to renewables, a great deal of work is being done with financial instruments and stimulations such as increasing price levels for the use of electricity, tax charges on electricity, trade-ins, subsidies, and so forth. On the other hand, prices have been a major issue in the national political debate, particularly with regards to heating for households and the transportation sector. There have been plans to transfer from coal to renewable energy sources at a national level but the national and local targets do not go hand in hand. Many cities have higher ambitions than the central government and feel that they are already progressing. But as an increasing number of cities have their own ambitious targets and plans, the national level may finally be forced to adopt a common position. It is already foreseen that after 2020, a new national plan is expected to be adopted for the following period.

Lessons learned & recommendations 
A important factor is the collaboration between politicians, administrations, institutions, the private sector and civil society and that they strive towards the same goal. 

Related SDG targets

7.1 By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services.

11.6 By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management

Further reading

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Project: Nordic Urban Ways