Green transition

“In terms of energy supply, we have the perfect storm in Europe.”

Mads-Ole Astrupgaard has been active in the wind industry for around 20 years. Through his work as Chair on the board of Wind Denmark/Danish Wind Industry Association, he has contributed in a decisive way to making the Danish wind industry a strong and central player in the existing and future energy system in Denmark and in the EU, but also globally.

Mads-Ole Astrupgaard is one of the founding fathers and board member of the newly founded association Green Power Denmark, which represents companies from the entire green energy value chain and he remains committed to the success of the green transition and electrification. He also was one of the keynote speaker of IESF European Meeting last spring in Copenhagen. IESF Germany – Topos Personalberatung – interviewed Mads-Ole about the green transition of Denmark.


Denmark is the EU leader in terms of electricity generation from renewables. In 2021, renewables accounted for around 68 percent[1] of Denmark’s total net electricity generation. The country has set a goal of reducing CO₂ emissions by 70 percent (compared to 1990 levels) by 2030 and being 100 percent carbon neutral by 2050. Creating the structural framework is an important step toward achieving this goal.

Mads-Ole, what were the reasons behind the creation of Green Power Denmark?

In Denmark, there were many different business associations in the energy supply sector, which differed in size, energy generation focus, and also in their vision of what the future of energy supply in Denmark should look like. This fragmentation and internal struggle over the right future path weakened the position vis-à-vis the government and caused frustration on the part of politicians, who were confronted with different interests instead of receiving qualified input for the energy transition from a single source. In such a case, politicians listen to the organizations with the loudest sum, i.e., the biggest representation. This was Wind Denmark and Dansk Energi, an association focusing on utility providers and infrastructure that, however, not only represented the interests of green companies, but also those of oil and gas companies.

We in WindDenmark, Dansk Energi and Dansk Solkraft sat down together last fall to explore whether we could combine our organizations into one powerful association. The discussions were extremely difficult, but everyone agreed that the future could only be in renewable energy – even companies in the oil and gas industry that would no longer be part of that future in their form agreed. Ultimately, the issue was how – and how soon – we could realize the green transition. In March 2022, nine months later, we had reached an agreement and were able to present a complete strategy for the electricity supply of the future in Denmark, which envisages a transition period with a combination of renewable and fossil energy sources, because even in Denmark we are not able to do without oil and gas right now. The outbreak of the war in Ukraine in February – just one month before Green Power Denmark was launched – made it crystal clear that we need to become independent of Russian gas and fossil fuels. Tragic as it is, the Ukraine war has significantly strengthened our organization.

How many organizations and companies did you bring under one roof in the merger?

Green Power Denmark is the merger of Dansk Energi, Wind Denmark, which I chaired, and Dansk Solkraft (Solar Power Denmark). I hope to also bring in representatives from the hydrogen sector, so that we will eventually integrate 5-6 associations reflecting the entire range of the green energy industry. Green Power Denmark currently already has more than 1,500 members from the entire value chain in the wind industry, developers and owners of renewable energy systems, electricity companies, distribution system operators, energy trading companies, and companies that work to convert and store green electricity. In this broad setup, we now have an extremely strong position vis-à-vis the Danish government when it comes to how we implement new supply processes. It is also not a hindrance that the CEO of Green Power Denmark is the former Minister of Finance of Denmark….

What were the biggest difficulties you had to overcome and what are your common goals?

An immense challenge was the difference in size of the organizations and their proportional representation in the new organization. However, there was agreement from the beginning that the representatives of wind and solar energy should be in the front row because wind generate approx. 35.000 jobs, even though the companies in these sectors generate the least amount of money. Our common goal is to increase the supply of green electricity in Denmark from the current 35 terawatt hours up to 105 terawatt hours by 2030 – a threefold increase within eight years. Since wind energy and solar plants cannot feed electricity into the grid evenly due to the time of day and weather conditions, the further development of electricity storage systems is essential for a continuous supply and the success of the energy transition. With the help of Power-to-X technologies, green electricity can be converted into chemical energy sources for electricity storage or into electricity-based fuels for mobility. In addition to meeting Denmark’s needs, we are also pursuing the goal of exporting energy surpluses.

You quoted that Denmark will be to become the “Emirate of green energy”…

Yes, I have said that – several times also to our Crown Prince. I have had the privilege of speaking to him more than once. So far, he always smiled at my words, but recently he replied, “I see, you’re not totally wrong.” I have also predicted to my Norwegian colleagues that Denmark will take over Norway’s position as Europe’s largest energy exporter. Norway’s oil exports will decline in the future, and in parallel Denmark is increasing green energy production, so we will probably be the strongest force in Europe in green energy and e-fuels hopefully from 2030 onwards.

Then energy will become Denmark’s biggest export – next to Lego?

The value chain for wind turbines and the OEMs of Wind turbines  already rank second among Danish exports. I estimate that energy exports will be our most important factor in foreign trade by about 2040. And there is heavy investment in Power-to-X technologies. The technologies are diverse and differ depending on the form of energy being created as well as the intended use, so a large, completely new industry is being created in this area.

What does Green Power Denmark’s political influence look like in concrete terms?

The action plan for converting the entire energy supply system to 100 percent renewable energy, which Green Power Denmark drew up and submitted to the Danish government, included 46 action points. Although we only have about 130 employees, Green Power Denmark is probably Denmark’s strongest lobbying organization. Looking back, we can say it went far better than we anticipated. Our voice is extremely loud.

Loud enough to be heard in Brussels? The energy transition can hardly be managed by Denmark alone…

We are being heard very clearly in Brussels. Denmark is the first country to install an entire renewable energy value chain. Many European countries invite us to report on our experiences and measures. After all, the energy problem we are currently facing is a purely European issue, not an American or Asian one. Measured in terms of gross domestic product, Europe accounts for about 15 percent[2] of the global economy, while the remaining 85 percent is hardly affected by the energy crisis.

How do you see the energy situation in Europe right now?

We are currently experiencing a difficult mix in Europe: Under the impact of what was happening in Fukushima, Germany has decided to abandon nuclear energy and is in the process of shutting down the last nuclear power plants; France, on the other hand, has an extremely large number of nuclear power plants, which are, however, completely outdated due to a lack of investment, which is reducing the country’s energy production to 60 percent of its actual capacity. France needs and wants to invest massively in its plants, but it will take years to get back to a level that will secure its own supply and possibly that of some other countries. Now that the EU Commission has given its blessing to nuclear energy as “environmentally friendly” and uranium has become respectable again, I am convinced that nuclear power plants will remain on the grid for a long time to come. But they are currently producing too little. Added to this are the low water levels of German rivers, which make inland shipping and the transport of coal difficult. Norway and Sweden also recorded too little rain and snow last year, which in turn is to the detriment of hydropower production. And if that wasn’t enough, there are political aspects that complicate mutual aid in Europe. Combined with the lack of Russian gas, this creates something of a “perfect storm” in terms of European energy supply.

Does the secret of success lie in joining forces? Should we set up a “Green Power Europe” – with Denmark as advisor?

Other comparable organizations will certainly emerge in Europe. Denmark’s pioneering position results on the one hand from its natural wind resources, and on the other hand from the technological conditions that already exist. Other countries do not have these conditions. In Denmark alone, 35,000 people are employed in the wind industry. That’s a hell of a lot for a small country like Denmark and illustrates the importance of this industry. The interest in keeping these technologies, production and new developments in the country has always been high – among politicians and investors alike. Investors look at the industry, production and energy efficiency as a whole. If the structures are right, then the money will also flow in the direction of renewable energies and the energy transition. And that can be implemented in other countries as well.



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