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On March 2, 2021, the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center hosted Hanne Storm Edlefsen, vice president of Energinet, the Danish state transmission system operator (TSO), as part of its EnergySource Innovation Stream, a series highlighting emergent technologies reshaping the global energy system. Edlefsen discussed Denmark’s plans for the world’s first energy islands, ushering a new era for large-scale offshore wind power. Randolph Bell, Richard Morningstar chair for global energy security and director of the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center, provided introductory remarks.
Edlefsen opened with a video explaining how the modular “hubs and spokes” of Denmark’s North Sea wind system will deliver high-capacity renewable energy to littoral states and the greater European grid while flexibly adapting to local needs. Outlining the innovative design structures of the islands, Edlefsen promised minimal environment impact as the islands hasten the “long-term business of replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy,” guaranteeing livelihoods and the planet for future generations.
According to Edlefsen, energy islands will contribute to that transition in three ways. They constitute the initial step in “radically upscaling the buildout of offshore wind power” by marshalling a unified mass of capital to a single large project, contrary to the dispersed “project-to-project” arrangement that have hindered economies of scale in the past. Collaborating with Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and potentially other partners, Denmark is contributing to a shift “from national to international deployment,” Edlefsen continued, a “pure necessity” for achieving the renewable output needed to meet Paris climate goals.
Second, energy islands will advance development of hydrogen and power-to-X fuels. The scaling-up of wind and other renewables to meet Denmark’s total electricity demand by 2030, Edlefsen predicted, will allow the islands’ surplus production to target the two-fifths of power consumption that cannot be electrified by generating emissions-free fuels. This, she surmised, could be the first step in allowing humanity to “drive and fly on wind.”
Third, energy islands herald “a move to international solutions.” Fundamentally, Edlefsen noted, “energy islands are international endeavors,” requiring that governments and TSOs cooperate on shared infrastructure to make projects economical. While single partners propose initiatives, she concluded, only cooperative action can ultimately save the planet.
Bell led a question-and-answer segment exploring the islands and their place in the global energy transition. The islands—potentially incorporating labs, harbors and airstrips—could house fuel production facilities and top-up ships and planes directly in the North Sea, according to Edlefsen. However, wind and wind-generated fuels comprise only part of the international climate solution, she cautioned, and Denmark plans to collaborate with countries “of a different pattern of [renewables] production” for an all-of-the-above approach. Praising partners in Brussels and European capitals, Edlefsen extolled international coordination and concentration as key for saving money, minimizing environmental impact, and maximizing output.
Paddy Ryan is a Spring 2021 Intern at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center
Hanne Storm Edlefsen, vice president, Energinet
Hanne Storm Edlefsen is vice president of Energinet. Energinet owns, operates and develops the backbone of Danish electricity and gas supply; the main transmission grids for electricity and gas. Energinet’s vision is “green energy for a better world” and hence Hanne is responsible for the strategic planning of the future power system. Her work focuses on sector coupling and large scale renewables, such as enabling PtX/hydrogen and conceptualizing the first energy islands in the world.