By Anders Lorenzen
A combination of concerns about climate change, the cost of living crisis and the war in Ukraine has meant that Denmark has drastically cut back its gas usage this year.
The Scandinavian country has so far used 17% less gas compared to the same period last year, and Danish homes have used 10% less gas during the same period.
These energy savings are a combination of Danes turning down the thermostat as well as other energy efficiency measures including investment in heat pumps, wind, and solar panels.
While Denmark with its population of nearly six million people is a small country, the measures taken could provide inspiration to bigger countries as to how to quickly wean themselves off Putin’s gas for both energy security reasons and the climate.
Phasing out gas without increasing emissions
But it also provides a lesson that we should not ease our reliance on gas just for the sake of doing so. And it would be a catastrophe to simply replace one fossil fuel with another. One Danish company has replaced its gas boilers with an oil burner. This is a much less efficient method of generating energy and has a far higher carbon footprint.
Furthermore, it could point to trouble ahead in efforts to reduce emissions. As the price of gas, still, the fossil fuel with the lowest carbon footprint, has skyrocketed there are concerns gas could be replaced with another fossil fuel with a higher carbon footprint. Many consumers could replace gas with coal or oil which is far more damaging.
It is evident that Denmark’s reduction in gas usage is a combination of the three factors I listed above, but nevertheless, it does show that behavioural change can work.
Actions such as turning down the thermostat can have a huge impact on your energy bill, and your emissions and thereby also affect climate change. The calculations made in Denmark showed that for every degree you turn down the thermostat, about 5% is saved on energy. It is worth noting that the majority of heating solutions in Denmark are provided by district heating stations mainly powered by electricity, and the greener the electricity in the grid the greener the solution.
In Denmark, there are still 412,000 homes getting their heating from gas boilers. A government initiative is trying to fast-track those homeowners to replace their gas boilers with district heating, meaning Denmark is at the forefront of phasing out gas for heating.
While easing our reliance on Russian gas, the starting point should be to overall reduce our reliance on gas. Climate advocates would be keen to stress we phase out gas only when we are able to replace it with greener and cleaner sources, so we ensure emissions savings too.
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