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September 4, 2018

US-Denmark energy cooperation: A “win(d)-win(d) situation”

By Becca Hunziker

When President Trump announced that his goal for American energy was not just energy independence, but “energy dominance,” he outlined six steps his administration would pursue with that goal in mind: reviving and expanding the nuclear energy sector, addressing barriers to financing highly efficient overseas coal energy plants, constructing a new pipeline to Mexico, negotiating more American natural gas sales to South Korea, approving applications to export additional natural gas, and creating a new offshore oil and gas leasing program. Although renewables were not mentioned as an important aspect of this strategy at its unveiling, the US Department of the Interior (DOI), a department which is responsible for 20.6 million acres of public land with wind potential through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and offshore energy development in federal waters through the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), has recently been arguing that wind energy—particularly offshore wind energy—will play a significant role in the administration’s energy strategy.

Earlier this summer, DOI’s Counselor to the Secretary for Energy Policy, Vincent DeVito, visited the Atlantic Council to articulate the Department’s approach to renewables, in particular wind. One reason DeVito is so enthusiastic about the possibilities of offshore wind is a recent trip he made to Denmark, where he had the opportunity to see the reality of offshore wind, and the broader value chain that has grown around it. DeVito, who was somewhat skeptical of offshore wind before the trip, said that, due to his exposure to the industry there, “everything’s changed in [his] head.”

DeVito now argues for the advancement of offshore wind in the US, much like Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke did in an April 2018 op-ed in The Boston Globe, highlighting the sector’s potential for job creation, benefits of low-cost energy for taxpayers, contributions to energy security, and its necessary place in an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy. And Denmark, a key American ally, provides a great example of how offshore wind resources can be well-utilized: DeVito praised the efficient and cooperative way their energy ministry operates, the way they have encouraged renewables manufacturing and integrated supply chains, and the impressive wind-related technology development there.

Watch Mr. DeVito discuss offshore wind in the US and his trip to Denmark here:

When asked about the US Department of the Interior’s new focus on offshore wind energy and DeVito’s enthusiasm for the trip he took to Denmark, Danish Minister for Energy, Utilities and Climate Lars Christian Lilleholt told us,

“Denmark is a very close ally of the US and our countries have been working together on security and economic issues for decades. However, I am both proud and happy that we have also strengthened our bilateral cooperation on energy issues significantly over the last few years. 

Our experience in Denmark is that offshore wind energy creates a lot of jobs and produces energy that is cheaper than new coal power plants. The latter is in large part due to the fact that the price of offshore wind in Denmark has dropped by 60 percent from 2010-2017. 

Last year I visited the US and had the opportunity to meet the Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, who told me that our cooperation is a “win(d), win(d) situation.” Denmark has worked with offshore wind for twenty-seven years and we know how to create an efficient regulatory framework that is conducive to the construction of offshore wind farms. We are very happy that we are able to share the experiences with our partners in the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. 

Offshore wind has an amazing potential in the US and I look forward to seeing the construction of the first large offshore wind farms on the Eastern seaboard.”

As the home of the world’s first offshore wind turbines, installed at Vindeby in 1991, and one of the largest developers of offshore wind farms today, the Danish government’s wealth of knowledge and willingness to share their experiences could prove valuable to US officials going forward.

Similarly, the experiences of Danish companies could prove instructive to US oil and gas companies seeking to devote more of their business to renewables. Ørsted, originally Danish Oil and Natural Gas (DONG Energy), divested its upstream oil and gas business and is phasing out its coal assets, in favor of focusing on green energy opportunities like offshore wind. DeVito recently encouraged US companies to become involved in the offshore wind sector, saying in an interview that “it’s clear as day” to him that “there is an opportunity for [the] oil and gas industry to participate in offshore wind.”

Jonathan Cole, managing director of offshore wind at Iberdrola (the recent winner of the largest ever US offshore wind contract), remarked that the US “is one of the most desirable global offshore wind markets,” and the US is taking advantage of that position by beginning to ramp up its offshore wind aspirations and capabilities. For instance, Massachusetts aims to install 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind by 2027, while New York, New Jersey and Maryland combined are targeting an addition of over 6 gigawatts by 2030. As the US continues to increase its wind power production capacity and creates a more national approach to offshore wind development, it is imperative that it continues to work with and learn from partners like Denmark. Only through learning and developing best practices will countries and communities be able to take full advantage of wind’s prospective benefits, such as reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, decreased air pollution from other emissions, reduced water consumption, greater energy diversity and security, and increased economic development and employment.

Becca Hunziker is a program assistant at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center.

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Image: Wind turbines and sailboats in Denmark (photo by: CGP Grey,