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Posts from the ‘Energy Data’ Category

Almost 1,000 MW of new large hydro- and geothermal power plants until 2035

If IceLink subsea HVDC power cable will be constructed, it is expected that totally 954 MW of new traditional large hydro- and geothermal plants will be needed in Iceland. These power plants would be constructed during the next two decades.

IceLink-Kvika-Poyry_New-Power-Stations_Askja-Energy-Partners-Twitter-_July-2016According to the Icelandic Master Plan for Nature Protection and Energy Utilization, the Icelandic government would most likely fulfill the increased demand by permitting the development of twelve new large hydro- and geothermal projects (as listed on the table at left). These are two hydropower projects and ten geothermal projects (or nine projects if Þeistareykir I and II would be defined as one project).

The ten geothermal projects are Þeistareykir I and Þeystareykir II in NE-Iceland, Bjarnarflag and Krafla II in NE-Iceland (Krafla I was constructed almost 40 years ago), Gráuhnúkar and Meitillinn in the Hengill geothermal area in SW-Iceland, Eldvörp and Stóra-Sandvík on the Reykjanes peninsula in SW-Iceland, and Sandfell and Sveifluháls in the Krýsuvík area in SW-Iceland. The two hydropower projects would be Blanda II in NE-Iceand and Hvammsvirkjun in Þjórsá in S-Iceland.

Eldvorp-Geothermal-Area-IcelandAll these twelve projects are already defined in utilization-category in the Master Plan for Nature Protection and Energy Utilization. However, some of these projects are somewhat costly to develop when compared to all possible energy projects in Iceland (which means there are several cheaper options available, although today they are not classified as utilization-projects, by either classified as protected or on hold).

Recently, the Icelandic Energy Industry Organization and some of the power companies in Iceland started pushing for changes of the Master Plan, to have the Icelandic government and the parliament (Alþingi) to include several other lower-cost projects in the utilization-category (we will soon explain the cost-issues further, here at the Independent Icelandic and Northern Energy Portal). As several of the cheapest options for harnessing more hydro- or geothermal power are in environmentally sensitive areas, there will without doubt be strong opposition against major changes of the Master Plan.

IceLink-Kvika-Poyry_Increase-in-Power-Generation_2015-2035_Askja-Energy-Partners-Table-Portal_July-2016If/when the IceLink project will go through, the total Icelandic power generation will have to increase enormously. Most of the new generation, or 7,400 GWh of the total increase of 12,800 GWh in annual production. would be added as exported power to the UK. In this same period (2015-2035) Icelandic general consumption of electricity is expected to increase by 1,700 GWh and power consumption by heavy industries in Iceland is expected to increase by 3,700 GWh. In total, Icelandic electricity generation would thus increase 68 percent in the period 2015-2035. For more on this subject, we refer to the table at left, and our earlier post from last July 22nd.

UK-Iceland power cable needs 1,459 MW of new capacity

A subsea HVDC power cable between Iceland and the United Kingdom (UK) would call for proportionally extreme increase in Iceland’s generation capacity. According to a new report by Kvika Bank and Pöyry, Iceland needs to build new power capacity of 2,137 MW to supply both the cable and the domestic demand. The figure for the necessary new capacity for the cable only is expected to be 1.459 MW (as shown on the table below). The rest of the new capacity is to meet expected increase in domestic demand for electricity (until 2035).

IceLink-Kvika-Poyry_New-Capacity_Askja-Energy-Partners-Twitter_July-2016The cable is normally referred to as IceLink. The report by Kvika and Pöyry (available in Icelandic only) claims that high proportion of the needed new capacity for IceLink can be met with wind power (today Iceland has very small wind power industry, as new geothermal- and hydropower projects have been the least costly way to generate electricity in Iceland). The authors of the report expect that 550 MW of new wind power would be constructed to meet demand by the cable.

The second largest increase in Icelandic power capacity would be in the form of hydropower refurbishments (which would probably mostly be new turbines in current hydropower stations). This figure is expected to be 448 MW. However, the report does not explain in a clear manner how these refurbishments would be carried out. From the report it is also somewhat unclear why it is believed that 550 MW of new wind power will be a good opportunity for the business case – instead of for example somewhat less wind power and somewhat more hydropower.

Iceland-Small-Hydro-Power-Bruarvirkjun-Project_9-MWSubstantial part of the expected new Icelandic capacity until 2035 would come from new small hydropower stations. Such new small hydropower stations, each with a capacity less than 10 MW, would in total be close to 150 MW. This would probably mean dozens of new small running-river hydropower projects in Iceland. Such projects tend to be more costly than the traditional large Icelandic hydropower projects. However, high strike price for the electricity make such expensive projects financially viable, according to the report.

According to the report, 276 MW of new traditional hydro- and geothermal power will be needed to meet demand from the cable. Most of this capacity will be in geothermal (245 MW).

IceLink-Kvika-Poyry_New-Capacity-and-Generation_Askja-Energy-Partners-Twitter-_July-2016-2When also taking increased domestic power demand into account, the total new traditional hydro- and geothermal capacity needed by 2035 is expected to be 954 MW; 124 MW in traditional large hydropower and 830 MW in traditional geothermal power. Today, Iceland has 665 MW of geothermal power (and 1,986 MW of hydropower). So the expected increase in utilization of Icelandic geothermal power is quite enormous. It should be noted that figures on traditional hydro- and geothermal power projects in the report are based on the Icelandic Master Plan for Nature Protection and Energy Utilization.

According to the report, considerable part of the new Icelandic power capacity to be developed is to meet expected increased demand from heavy industries in Iceland. Today, heavy industries in Iceland (which are mostly aluminum smelters) consume close to 80% of all electricity generated in the country. According to the report by Kvika Bank and Pöyry on IceLink, all the three aluminum smelters in Iceland will continue their operations in the coming years and decades. And the authors of the report expect that in the coming years and decades power demand of heavy industries in Iceland will increase. It is noteworthy that such assumptions could change dramatically, if for example one of the aluminum smelters in Iceland would close down.

Iceland-Geothermal-Theistareykir-areaFinally we should mention that if/when IceLink will be constructed, it is expected that the total increased power capacity in Iceland will be around 77% (increase from beginning of 2016). The increase in generation will be somewhat more or close to 68%. According to the above mentioned report, all the projects to meet this increase will be developed in the next 15-20 years. We will soon be revisiting this subject, explaining in more details what power projects will be needed to meet this high increase. Obviously such an increase will/would make Iceland’s position as the world’s largest electricity producer even more pronounced.

Iceland is the greenest energy country in Europe

EU-EFTA-Renewable-Share-in-Gross-Energy-Consmuption_Askja-Energy-Partners-2016Probably not many of our readers are aware of the interesting fact that apart from the Scandinavian countries, Latvia is the greenest energy country in the European Union (EU). Only Sweden and Finland have a larger share of green energy in their gross energy consumption. However, the two greenest energy countries in Europe are Iceland and Norway (who are not members of the EU, but members of the European Free Trade Association; EFTA).

On the graph above you can see the share of renewable energy (percentage) in gross final energy consumption of each country within the EU and EFTA (the bars show the top-20 countries).

Iceland and Norway are clearly the leaders, with 77% and 69% renewable energy share respectively (in gross energy consumption). Having in  mind that no country in the world generates as much green power per capita as Iceland, it is not surprising that Iceland has the highest share of renewable energy in the gross energy consumption of all the states within EU and EFTA (with regard to energy consumption, Iceland is actually the greenest of all countries in the world).

Have in mind that the average share of renewable energy in the gross energy consumption of all the countries within the EU is currently close to 16%. And EU has the official and binding goal of increasing this share to 20% no later than 2020.

Europe-Renewable-Share-in-Gross-Energy-Consmuption_Askja-Energy-Partners-2016It is also worth noting that there are European countries outside of EU and EFTA that have very high share of renewable energy in their gross consumption mix (as can be seen on the graph at left). This especially applies to Albania (31%) and Montenegro (37%), which puts these countries in 6th and 8th place respectively (on the European list).

It is also interesting how extremely low the share of renewable energy is in Russia’s gross energy consumption (even hough Russia is the world’s fifth largest hydropower producing country). Also note how low the share of renewable energy is in countries like the UK and Holland. They need to do much better! Finally, note that not all European countries are included on the graph (countries that are not included in the data published by Eurostat, apart from Russia).

Main sources:
Eurostat – Information about consumption of energy
Eurostat – Share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption
Eurostat – Energy from renewable sources (table 1).

European countries not included on the list above:
Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Lichtenstein, Moldova, Monaco, San Marino, Ukraine, and the Vatican.

Oil prices must rise… some day

In last February we published an article explaining that the then very low oil price (31-32 USD/barrel) were not sustainable. In the article we focused on why oil prices will soon need to be approaching 60 USD/barrel and then head towards approximately 80-90 USD/barrel.

Oil-Supply-Demand-IEA__2016-2017_June-2016Now, only five months later, the price of oil is close to 50 USD/barrel. This does not mean that higher oil price is here to stay, nor does it mean that a price close to 80-90 USD/barrel is just around the corner. The world is still experiencing quite higher crude oil supply than consumption (demand), which can also be described as over-supply of crude oil. This means that oil price may stay quite low for some time (and even become lower than it currently is). But looking a bit further ahead, the price of oil will need to be approaching 60 USD/barrel and then head towards 80-90 USD/barrel. Else, there will not be enough oil for the world.

The graph above is from IEA’s June report, predicting that oil supply and demand is heading fast towards balance, supply to be outstripped by demand in the second half of 2017. Although this prediction by the IEA may be somewhat optimistic, i.e. it may take longer time for reaching balance in the oil market, it is obvious that in the long run the over-supply will vain. And then we will eventually again experience substantially higher price for crude oil than we have today.

Oil_Global-Liquids-Supply-Cost-Curve-Explained_Askja-Energy-Partners_June-2016To explain this further, we have updated our chart (at left) explaining the cost of future’s oil production. The graph shows where the world’s oil will come from in 2025 and at what cost.

In 2025 very substantial amount of the world’s oil will come from currently producing oil fields. However, due to decline in those oil fields and due to growing oil consumption, we will also need oil from new fields (which have already been discovered and are being developed). And to be able to bring those fields in production, we will need quite high oil price.

Large share of the oil consumed in 2025 will be coming to the market even if the oil price will only be in the range of 60-80 USD/barrel. But if we are hoping to avoid oil supply crisis, the oil price needs to become even higher. Like close to 90 USD.

To ensure all this oil will be brought up from the ground, we will need substantially higher oil price than we have today. Thus, it is likely that within the next decade we will see the price of oil approach 90 USD/barrel (in present USD value).

Bogle-Vanguard-Nobody-knows-nothingOf course the oil price may in some periods become higher and sometimes it will be lower. And keep in mind that it is impossible to predict with any precision how oil consumption (oil demand) will develop in the world (the same applies to prediction for renewable energy growth). No one knows what the price of the black gold will be at a certain point of time in the future (remember the wise advice Jack Bogle received early in his carrier!). However, if the world economy is going to keep on growing, like we are used to, we will need crude oil.  And a lot of it. A decade from now it is unlikely we will have all that oil unless we are willing and able to cover a production cost of at least approximately 90 USD/barrel.

The unknowns are many and the oil markets are extremely sensitive to all kinds of events. We don’t know how the economy in Asia will grow in the coming decade. And we don’t know if we are soon to experience enormous growth in new types of vehicles, using electricity instead of fossil fuels.

BNEF-EV-Sales-Prediction-2016If the 2020’s will be the decade of the electric car, as Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) now predicts, oil demand may become a lot slower than the oil companies are assuming. Which could result in continued over-supply of oil. So it is to be seen how growing production – and lower costs – of EV’s, will affect investment decisions by the oil companies. Stay tuned!

Electricity statistics update 2015

The Icelandic National Energy Authority (NEA) has published statistics regarding the electricity industry in 2015. You can access the publication in Icelandic on NEA’s website (link to the pdf-file). Here are some of the key numbers:

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TOTAL ELECTRICITY GENERATION:          18,798 GWh (2015)

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ELECTRICITY GENERATION SHARE BY SOURCE:

Hydro Power 13,780 GWh          73%
Geothermal Power     5,003 GWh         27%
Other 15 GWh            0%
Total 18,798 GWh        100%

NB: 2015 is the third year the NEA publishes data for generated wind power in Iceland. Electricity generated by wind power (11 GWh) and fossil fuels (4 GWh) was to small amount to be measured as a percentage on the scale of the table above. The combined wind- and fossil fuels generation amounted to 15 GWh, which was less than 0.001% of all electricity generated in Iceland in 2015.

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ELECTRICITY POWER CAPACITY:  

Hydro Power  1,986 MW
Geothermal Power     665 MW
Wind Power         3 MW
Fossil Fuels     117 MW
Total Power Capacity 2,771 MW

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ELECTRICITY CONSUMPTION SHARE:

Energy Intensive Industries 77%
General Consumption     18%
Other (losses)     5%
Total 100%

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You will find more Icelandic energy data in our special data-section.

The Icelandic electricity market is ON

The Icelandic power market has been experiencing important changes in the last few years. Most important is the increased demand for Icelandic electricity. Which is no surprise, as Icelandic power firms have started offering interesting new type of long-term contracts, were base-load green electricity is made available at very competitive prices.

New contract by ON and Silicor Materials

Silicor-Materials-Plant-at-Grundartangi-IcelandA good example of the recent trend in Iceland’s power market, is the new contract between Orka náttúrunnar (ON), owned by Reykjavík Energy (OR), and the California based Silicor Materials. It was in last September that ON and Silicor signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) for an equivalent of 40 MW of power. The electricity will be utilized at Silicor’s new solar-grade silicon plant, which is being constructed at Grundartangi in SW-Iceland. The contract is for a period of 15 years, with possibility of extension. Power delivery will be starting in 2018.

Moving away from low smelter-tariffs

According to a press release from ON and Silicor, the new PPA raises the price of ON’s renewable energy significantly. What is also very important, is that the power tariff is not linked to the price of the product’s buyer. Thus, this contract is quite different from  ON’s current sales with regard to power-intensive industries. Until now, the said 40 MW have produced power sold to the Icelandic power company Landsvirkjun, which has sold the power to the aluminum industry in Iceland. There, the power tariff has been linked to aluminum price at London Metal Exchange (LME). This kind of risk-factor is not to be found in the new PPA of ON and Silicor.

The tariff is close to 43 USD/MWh

According to the press statement, mentioned above, the wholesale price in the PPA is “approaching the retail price” which households in Iceland pay for electricity. This means that the wholesale tariff Silicor Materials will pay for the power is close to 43 USD/MWh. According to analysis by Askja Energy Partners, this means that ON will receive somewhere between three to four times higher price for the electricity sold to Silicor than it is receiving today (from Landsvirkjun).

The new reality on the Icelandic power market

In recent years, the average price of electricity to energy-intensive industries (without transmission cost) in Iceland, have been close to 20 USD/MWh. Thus, it is obviously very important for the Icelandic power industry that new electricity contracts with energy-intensive customers are based on a price that is approaching 43 USD/MWh.

ON-Power-Reykjavik-IcelandHowever, this is not a surprising development. New energy intensive facilities locating in Western Europe or in Northern America have very little chance of getting as positive long-term power contracts as in Iceland. In addition, the Icelandic electricity is 100% generated from renewable sources. And the transmission system in Iceland is renowned for being one of the best and most reliable in the world.

Therefore, it can be expected that in the coming years we will see numerous firms wanting to locate their new production facilities in Iceland. Silcor Materials is only one example; there are already several other examples of both new silicon projects and new data centers in Iceland. Such companies and Icelandic power seem to be a perfect fit.

Electricity tariffs to aluminum smelters in Iceland

In this article you will find information about the electricity prices which the three aluminum smelters in Iceland paid to the Icelandic power company Landsvirkjun in the period 2005-2014. The information is based on several Icelandic and international reports.

  • The Norðurál smelter (Century Aluminum) pays the lowest tariff.
  • The Fjarðaál smelter (Alcoa) pays a slightly higher price than Norðurál.
  • The tariff to the Straumsvík smelter (Rio Tinto Alcan; RTA) is presently the highest.

Very low tariffs to Norðurál (Century Aluminum) and Straumsvík (Alcoa) are the reason for extremely low average price of electricity to aluminum smelters in Iceland. With regard to the low tariffs, it is not surprising that Century Aluminum has stated, that its Grundartangi smelter in Iceland “generates significant free cash flow in virtually all price environments”. The same situation is likely to apply to Alcoa’s Fjarðaál smelter, as it pays on average only approximately 10% higher price for the electricity than Norðurál (Century) does.

Since late 2010, the Straumsvík smelter of RTA has paid a substantially higher price for the electricity than the other two smelters. Before 2010, RTA enjoyed the lowest electricity tariff of all the aluminum smelters in Iceland. With the new contract between Landsvirkjun and RTA in 2010, the base price increased and the power tariff was no longer linked to the price of aluminum.

So far, the new contract between Landsvirkjun and RTA is the only energy contract with aluminum smelters in Iceland where the electricity tariff is not linked to aluminium price. Instead, the price in this new contract is adjusted according to US Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Although the tariff to RTA is much higher than to Alcoa and Century Aluminum, the price to RTA is quite modest. For example, it is much lower than the average price of electricity to aluminum smelters in the United States (USA). And the said tariff is similar or even lower than the average power tariff to aluminum smelters in Africa.

Aluminum-Electricity-Tariffs-to-Smelters-in-Iceland_2005-2014_and-World-Comparison_Askja-Energy-Partners-2015The graph shows the average annual electricity price paid by each of the three aluminum smelters in Iceland to Landsvirkjun, in the period 2005-2014. All prices on the graph include transmission. The red columns are the electricity price to Norðurál at Grundartangi (Century Aluminum), the green columns are the electricity price paid by the aluminum plant at Straumsvík (Rio Tinto Alcan; RTA), and the light blue columns are the tariffs to Fjarðaál in Reyðarfjörður (Alcoa). Note that readers should presume a confidence interval of 5%.

The tariff to Straumsvík (RTA) is currently approaching 35 USD/MWh. In 2014, the smelter in Straumsvík paid almost 45% higher power tariff than Fjarðaál (Alcoa), and close to 60% higher price than the aluminum smelter at Grundartangi (Century).

Landsvirkjun’s average price to the aluminum smelters in 2014 was slightly above 26 USD. Same price for aluminum smelters in Africa that year was about 30% higher, and comparable prices to smelters in the USA and Europe were close to 45% higher. For more information about average power tariffs to aluminum smelters in the world in 2014, we refer to our earlier post; Electricity Tariffs to Aluminum Smelters.

Historically, all electricity sales by Landsvirkjun to the aluminum industry has been linked to aluminum prices (until 2010). Therefore, the tariffs and Landsvirkjun’s revenues have often fluctuated dramatically – according to changes in price of aluminum on the London Metal Exchange (LME). Such fluctuation can clearly be seen on the graph above, especially with regard to the period 2008-2010. Note also that in 2006-08 the price of aluminum was exceptionally high, hence the power tariffs to the smelters in Iceland were unusually high in that period.

From 2019, more contracts with the aluminum smelters in Iceland will be expiring. With regard to the electricity price in the recent contract between Landsvirkjun and Straumsvík (RTA) and other new contracts with smelters in the world, it can be expected that the minmum tariff in renewed contracts with the smelters will not be under 35 USD/MWh (in 2014 prices), and possibly somewhat higher. We at Askja Energy Partners will be presenting frequent news and update on this interesting subject.

Electricity tariffs to world’s aluminum smelters

The graph below shows the average price of electricity to aluminum smelters in different regions of the world (in 2014). The graph both illustrates  the relative amount of aluminum production in the major aluminum production areas/countries, and the electricity tariffs. All prices on this graph include both electricity and transmission cost

Aluminum-Electricity-Tariffs-World-and-Iceland-Landsvirkjun-2014China has become the world’s largest aluminum producer. This is an interesting fact, not least when having in mind that the smelters in China pay on average much higher electricity tariffs than smelters elsewhere in the world.

Iceland is represented by red color on the graph. Note that the column for Iceland includes only the power sold to smelters from the National Power Company (Landsvirkjun). Two other power firms in Iceland also sell power to one of the aluminum smelters in Iceland (there are three smelters in Iceland, owned by Alcoa, Century Aluminum, and Rio Tinto Alcan). However, Landsvirkjun is by far the main electricity provider for the smelters in Iceland. Thus, the average electricity price to the aluminum smelters in Iceland is very close to the average price the smelters pay to Landsvirkjun. Which was just above 26 USD/MWh in 2014.

Aluminum production in Iceland is relatively unimportant in the global context (about 0.8 million tons of the total of close to 54 million tons in 2014). What is more interesting, is the fact that the electricity price the smelters pay Landsvirkjun (the average price) is one of the lowest in the world. In 2014, it was close to being exactly the same as the average price to smelters in the Middle East (which are mostly smelters in the Persian Gulf States, taking advantage of very cheap electricity from natural gas power stations). And the average price to smelters in Iceland is only slightly higher than the average price to aluminum smelters in Canada, and much lower than the tariffs to smelters in the USA.

However, the average price to aluminum smelters in Iceland is likely to increase substantially in the coming years – when major contracts are up for renegotiation.  Next such power contract is a contract between Landsvirkjun and Century Aluminum, regarding the Norðurál Smelter at Grundartangi. The present contract expires in 2019.

Electricity statistics update 2014

The Icelandic National Energy Authority (NEA) has published statistics regarding the electricity industry in 2014. You can access the publication in Icelandic and English on NEA’s website (link to the pdf-file in English). Here are some of the key numbers:

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TOTAL ELECTRICITY GENERATION:          18,122 GWh (2014)

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ELECTRICITY GENERATION SHARE BY SOURCE:

Hydro Power 12,873 GWh          71%
Geothermal Power     5,239 GWh         29%
Other 10 GWh            0%
Total 18,122 GWh        100%

NB: Electricity generated by wind power and fossil fuels was to small amount to be measured as a percentage on the scale of this table. This is the second year the NEA publishes data for generated wind power in Iceland. It was 8 GWh, which was less than 0.001% of all electricity generated in Iceland in 2014. 

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ELECTRICITY POWER CAPACITY:  

Hydro Power  1,986 MW
Geothermal Power     665 MW
Wind Power         3 MW
Fossil Fuels     106 MW
Total Power Capacity 2,760 MW

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ELECTRICITY CONSUMPTION SHARE:

Energy Intensive Industries 77%
General Consumption     17%
Other (losses)     5%
Total 99%

NB: In its report for 2014, NEA does not explain what happened to 1% of the electricity.

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You will find more Icelandic energy data in our special data-section.

 

Does Apple not want truly GREEN data centers?

Denmark-Electricity-Sector-Mostly-Coal_March-2015Is there such a color as coal-green? This question comes in mind when reading about Apple’s new data center in Denmark. Apple recently announced it will construct two new large data centers in Europe, both to be “run on 100 percent renewable energy”. According to a press release from Apple, “the new facilities will run entirely on clean, renewable energy sources from day one”. These are interesting statements, having in mind that both data centers will be connected to a grid which mostly delivers electricity from fossil fueled power production. Here we will consider if a data centre located in Denmark can truly be said to run all the time on 100 percent renewable energy.

Denmark’s own power mix is dominated by coal

Denmark-Coal-Plant-StudstrupværketDenmark generates substantial amount of green energy. According to the most recent information from the European Union (EU), the renewable’s share of Denmark’s gross electricity consumption in 2012 was close to 40 percent. More recent information from the Danish transmission system operator (TSO), Energinet, tells us that the share of renewable energy in 2013 was somewhat higher than in 2012, but still less than half of the total electricity consumption (47.5 percent).

Denmark’s electricity is mainly generated by coal. The Danish government has plans to decrease the importance of coal, but coal still constitutes for more than half of the fuel consumption of Danish power stations. Most of Denmark’s renewable energy comes from wind, which is of course somewhat a fluctuating and unreliable energy source. In 2013 the share of wind in the electricity consumption was almost one-third (32.7 percent).

Connections to other countries are based on economics rather than green energy

Denmark’s electricity grid is not an island, but connected with its neighbouring countries by several large cables. Therefore, Denmark sometimes exports electricity and sometimes imports electricity. Weather it is exporting or importing electricity depends on the price difference within the larger market area. Normally, Denmark exports electricity during night (because of its large wind power capacity) and imports during the day (when demand goes up and Norwegian and Swedish hydropower stations are utilizing the water in the reservoirs). However, imports and exports of electricity of course always depends very much on how the wind blows in Denmark.

Denmark imports power from coal-, hydro-, and nuclear power stations

When Denmark imports electricity, it comes via cables from Germany, Norway, and/or Sweden. The imported electricity can, for example, be generated by fossil fuels (major coal power in Germany), by nuclear power (nuclear stations in Sweden and Germany), or by hydropower (especially from Norway, but hydropower is also a major source in Swedish power generation).

Denmark-Electricity-Imports-and-Exports-2013

Lately, most of the imported energy has been from Germany (as shown on the diagram at left, which is from the Danish TSO). Coal is the most important source of electricity generation in Germany, accounting for close to half of the generation. In Germany, only ¼ of the generation comes from renewable sources on average. Natural gas and nuclear energy account to close to ¼ of the generation. Thus, electricity imported to Denmark from Germany normally increases the share of fossil fuels and nuclear power in the Danish electricity consumption.

Data centers in Denmark are dependent on fossil fuels and nuclear power

It is highly unlikely that a data centre located in Denmark, connected to the grid.  will be run entirely on clean, renewable energy sources only. For the end-user in Denmark it is impossible to know how the electricity he consumes was generated. Even more important is that Denmark’s electricity mix is dominated by coal power stations.

Denmark-Electricity-Consumption-Mix_1990-2013-and-forecastIn fact every date centre in Denmark can be expected to mostly be run on coal power. Of course companies, including those running data centers, can try to find a generating company that only produces electricity from renewable sources and buy its electricity from that company. But the electricity put into the transmission grid can not be isolated – so to speak – from other electricity on the grid. Therefore, it is of course impossible for the buyer to promise that he is only using or consuming green energy.

It is possible to buy what is called Green Certificates, which are a tradable commodity proving that certain amount of electricity is generated using renewable energy sources only. However, this does not mean that the electricity being consumed by the buyer of the certificate is from renewable sources – it might as well be from a coal power station or from a nuclear plant. The result is that every data center in Denmark, connected to the grid, will in fact be using electricity from all kinds of power plants, including for example coal power stations.

Iceland is the best option for GREEN data centers

The only way for a major data center being truly able to run on 100 percent renewable energy is to take power from a grid that only delivers electricity from renewable sources. In Europe probably no grid comes as close to this as in Iceland. Iceland produces close to 99.9 percent of its electricity by utilizing hydro- and geothermal power (and some wind power).

Norway is in a similar situation, producing almost all the power from hydro resources. But Norway also imports power from other countries, thus distributing coal power and nuclear power to end-users. So Norway is not quite as green option as Iceland is.

Regarding Denmark, it is obviously not a very green option at all. The environmental accounting may tell us that a company there has a very low net carbon footprint, but in reality the electricity is not only from renewable sources at all. If Apple or any other firm in Denmark wants to run 100 percent on renewable energy it would in fact either have to disconnect from the grid – or set up its operation in Iceland.