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Danes and Norwegians Host CEC on a Clean Energy Study Tour

By California Energy Commissioner Patty Monahan 

As California faces urgent climate threats at home, like more intense wildfires and drought, the fight to cut emissions is global in scope. California is not alone in this fight.

That is why I helped lead a delegation from the California Energy Commission (CEC) on a fact-finding tour to Denmark and Norway this summer. Visits like this help strengthen the international collaboration needed to tackle complex challenges. As the lead commissioner for clean transportation, industrial decarbonization, and the role of hydrogen in our energy system, it is important for me to learn from other leading governments and share California’s lessons learned.

Denmark Our first stop was Denmark, whose goals include reaching climate neutrality by 2050.


Denmark and California have enjoyed a fruitful exchange of knowledge and best practices on energy efficiency since 2019 under our Memorandum of Understanding. During our visit, we gained insight about how Denmark is cutting carbon from buildings, industry, and beyond. The Denmark Energy Agency hosted our learning tour. Our hosts for the duration of the trip included Anne Svendsen, Fabian Bühler, Sander De La Rambelje, and Bo Riisgaard Pedersen.

CEC and our delegation hosts at the top of the Amager Bakke waste incineration plant.

In Kalundborg, we visited Kalundborg Symbiosis, which facilitates partnerships between public and private companies. Profits are created using a circular process called industrial symbiosis, where waste streams from one facility become a resource for another, such as using waste heat from a refinery to heat for local homes.

Next was a visit to Denmark’s second largest city, Aarhus, which has a goal of becoming climate neutral by 2030. We went to a local school that stores energy from its solar panels in a “flow battery” (using vanadium redox), which can be a cheaper and longer-lasting energy storage solution than conventional lithium ion batteries for some applications.

School with Visblue vanadium redox flow battery energy storage site visit


We toured the Danish Technological Institute (DTI) where clean energy technologies, such as heat pumps and electric vehicle chargers are tested. DTI is similar to our national laboratories in the United States.

Danish Technological Institute testing facility tour.

We also traveled to Sønderborg, where the International Energy Agency hosted a global conference on energy efficiency. The war in Ukraine and the resulting energy crisis added urgency to the event, and there was broad participation by counties in the European Union and beyond. During the Energy Efficiency Solutions Summit, I was on a panel about how public-private partnerships in energy efficiency can drive decarbonization.

Energy Efficiency Solutions Summit

The Denmark leg wrapped up with a visit to the offices of the Danish Energy Agency. I provided an overview of California’s climate policies and actions, while the Danes shared their strategies on industrial and building decarbonization, carbon capture and sequestration, and renewable natural gas.

We also stopped at the Amager Bakke waste incineration plant. The facility has a state-of-the-art emission control system and uses excess heat from the plant to produce electricity and heat homes in the surrounding area. Their building also boasts a massive climbing wall, a ski slope in winter, and a rooftop deck that’s open to all.

Amager Bakke waste incineration plant tour.

   

Our visit to Denmark gave us inspiration to take back home along with a deep appreciation of the country’s commitment to sustainability on all levels.   

Norway  

Clean transportation was the focus of our visit to Norway. That makes sense since Norway is the undisputed world leader in electric car sales share. In 2021, 80 percent of their new car sales were electric. Norway’s goal is to hit 100 percent by 2025, 10 years ahead of California’s goal. 

Norway also has more electric ferries than any country in the world, with more than 230 in operation.   

Innovation Norway, a Norwegian governmental agency, hosted CEC on a learning tour. Kelly Ratchinsky from Innovation Norway led our delegation.

At our first stop in Haugesund, Zinus Power demonstrated its electric ferry charger. The company uses an autonomous charger arm that attaches to a vessel and delivers a boost charge of up to 4,400 amps in under 10 minutes.  

Zinus Power ferry charging station.

We then toured a zero-emission ferry that ferry manufacturer and operator Norled is building. The vessel will be equipped with electric batteries and fuel cells powered by green hydrogen.    

Norled zero-emission ferry

Our next stop was Oslo for the 35th International Electric Vehicle Symposium (EVS), where I helped keynote a panel about how California and Baden-Württemberg Germany are front runners in zero emission transportation.

My presentation at EVS

At EVS we met with Winfried Hermann, Minister of Transport for Baden-Württemberg to discuss our existing Memorandum of Understanding that includes a focus on zero emission transportation. We also met with representatives from the Netherlands to discuss transportation infrastructure collaboration.


While in Oslo Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Deputy Consul General Helge Marstrander arranged meetings with Norwegian energy agencies where we discussed our respective carbon neutrality plans.

On our last stop we learned about the Port of Oslo’s hydrogen advancements in the maritime, trucking, and aviation sectors. Norway uses the electrification pyramid to guide investments. Direct electrification is used first, batteries second, and hydrogen for the remaining uses.   

Like California, Norway is showing the world that an oil-producing region can lead the way to zero-emission transportation. I am confident that California’s strong partnership with Norway will help us reach our goals. 

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