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Straight to the Source: How Ørsted Is Powering Denmark's Clean Energy Revolution

Images credit: Nassy Avramidis

On a rainy Tuesday afternoon at Sustainable Brands ‘17 Copenhagen, I caught the bus ferrying several attendees to visit Ørsted’s Avedøre Power Station. It was an eye-opening experience, especially to someone who had never been inside a power plant before!

As we learned from the conference, Ørsted, formerly known as DONG Energy, has been going through quite the transformation in the past few years — I wrote about it last year, when the company took us aboard a seaplane to view its Anholt Offshore Wind Farm during last year’s conference. Ørsted has transformed from an oil- and natural-gas-centric energy company to a world leader in renewable energy. As part of its transformation, Ørsted has a robust offshore wind division, as well as several power plants that are being commissioned and transformed to produce clean energy. Ørsted is currently on track to eliminate coal at all of its power stations by 2023; the company has so far converted 50 percent of its power stations to produce heat and power from renewable sources.

Avedøre Power Station

So, what fuels Avedøre? Previously run on coal, the power station has been converted to be able to use 100 percent sustainable biomass in the form of wood pellets sourced from sustainably managed forests. The power station also uses straw, which is a residual waste product in Denmark from agriculture and is considered an intrinsically sustainable fuel because of its short CO2 absorption cycle of just one year.

These years, more suppliers are being certified as sustainable through FSC, PFC and/or the Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP). Since no legislation exists defining what it takes for biomass to be defined as sustainable, Ørsted has partnered with six other European companies to define an industry standard through SBP. This program ensures a high standard for sustainable biomass, providing assurance that woody biomass is sourced from sustainable sources. 60 percent of the wood pellets and chips that Ørsted uses are certified sustainable, and its target is to reach 100 percent by 2020.

Ørsted’s power stations provide roughly one-third of the district heating consumed in Denmark and one-fourth of Denmark’s total power generation — almost half of Danish power generation from thermal power stations. In today’s market, heat — the most important output from the power stations — is actually a byproduct of power generation. Many districts in Denmark use what is called district heating, where heat is transferred through hot water running in pipes, heating the water in homes. This is a great way to use biomass because it is energy efficient and provides affordable heating to consumers. District heating can be implemented by retrofitting a small city or neighborhood, but currently 64 percent of Danish homes are covered by district heating, including all of Copenhagen.

The second output of the Avedøre Power Station is electricity. Electricity from power stations is used as a supplement to renewable energy production such as that produced by Ørsted’s offshore wind farms: Power stations help ensure that power supply always matches demand. Since existing power stations can be modified to use biomass, this allows for a quicker societal transition to sustainable energy, compared to building new energy infrastructure. In Ørsted’s words, “it’s a good way to get rid of coal, fast.”

The size and scale of the power plant, along with learning more about Ørsted’s work to make good on its goal of transitioning from ‘black to green,’ was awe-inspiring. Thank you, Ørsted, for giving us a glimpse into a not-too-distant clean-energy future.

Nassy is Content Development Manager at Sustainable Brands. Prior to joining the team, she worked as CSR Manager for Sustain Natural, and before that was a Communications Specialist (Writer) for the Institute for Sustainable Communities. Nassy has a J.D.… [Read more about Nassy Avramidis]

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