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As California Turns to Offshore Wind, Denmark Brings the Knowhow

By MPCO Staff

This month, the California Energy Commission (CEC) and the Danish Energy Agency (DEA) signed a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) to build on the cooperation between California and Denmark that dates back to 2018. The MOU is an agreement between the parties to promote sharing of knowledge, experiences, data, and best practices for offshore wind energy and the decarbonization of the industrial and building sectors.

The MOU was signed in Denmark by the DEA Director General Kristoffer Böttzauw, and in California at the Nordic Center at UC Berkeley by CEC Chair David Hochschild during a video call between the two.

Hochschild spoke enthusiastically about the continuing exchange of knowledge: “As one of the largest economies in the world, California is committed to a 100 percent clean energy future for all. We are proud to continue to amplify our efforts on a global scale through this renewed agreement with our Danish partners, and I look forward to collaborating on critical issues like offshore wind and energy efficiency.”

It might seem odd for California to turn to Denmark when other U.S. states — Virginia and Rhode Island — have established offshore wind farms. But a major hurdle to California’s entry into offshore generation has been the steep drop-off of the West Coast shelf. The Kingdom Of Denmark is a leader in offshore wind, including using deep-water turbines. From its first offshore wind farm commissioned in 1991, Denmark has grown its wind power to meet more than half of its energy demand.

California, in turn, has much to offer its partner in this MOU: “Working together with California is an honor for Denmark, but it is also needed. California is a frontrunner in digital technologies, while Denmark has been working with energy efficiency for decades, and we as a small country, together with one of the biggest economies in the world, can make a good impact on the green transition together. Therefore, I am happy that we are now extending our energy cooperation between Denmark and California,” explained Danish Energy Agency Director General Böttzauw.

MOUs lead to valuable information exchanges to inform better decision-making, particularly in developing policy and planning. For example, this MOU smooths the way for California to deploy offshore wind energy through lessons learned from Denmark on reducing risks and costs, as well as the constraints and challenges of planning, permitting, and construction of facilities. Armed with this knowledge, California could:

  • Help protect fish habitat, marine mammals, migratory birds, and cultural resources.

  • Address impacts to commercial and recreation fishing industries.

  • Avoid issues during construction with supply chain, grid integration, and interconnection.

  • Use offshore wind power for producing green hydrogen and Power-to-X (converting power into something else, such as converting excess electricity via electrolysis into hydrogen, for direct use or in other processes).

  • Develop the workforce and ports for productive, reliable wind farms.

Additionally, California and Denmark have deep knowledge and tested approaches to energy efficiency and decarbonizing homes and businesses to share with each other. California’s award-winning Energy Code, for example, serves as inspiration for building efficiency standards around the world. Even seemingly minor changes like switching to LED lighting from incandescent can have a sizeable impact on electricity use, reducing it by as much as 80%. Ukraine recently turned to this efficiency measure, offering free LED bulbs in exchange for incandescents turned in by citizens, to help reduce demand on the national grid.

This MOU will also encourage discussions on decarbonizing the industrial sector, which, in California, generates nearly a quarter of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. The discussions will happen through study tours, staff-to-staff or public workshops, coordinated participation at relevant international conferences, and partnerships and communication with local and regional jurisdictions.

During the past four years of cooperation, California and Denmark made major strides on green energy and decarbonization, such as the December auction for the first floating offshore wind farm in the United States — off the California coast — and Denmark’s Green Tax Reform, providing stronger incentives for industrial decarbonization. Denmark has also turned its attention to reducing embodied carbon in building materials (or, the carbon emissions from producing and transporting those materials). However, the work isn’t finished; California has set itself new goals for offshore wind: up to 5,000 MW by 2030 and 25,000 MW by 2045. These new goals make cooperation with Denmark vital to launching this industry while reducing emissions in other areas of the energy sector.

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