Social consensus key to Denmark embracing wind energy

Click on Spiegel image for photo album.

While this post is not about education per se, it is certainly educational. The topic?

Why wind energy is succeeding in Denmark compared to other countries (or provinces of other countries such as Ontario, Canada) that are wrapped up in protests and very expensive litigation.

In Denmark, according to an excellent article in Spiegel Online, it is succeeding because there is a social consensus on global warming and the need for alternative sources of electricity. There is also:

(1) A provision for financial and other incentives for everyone involved in a community affected by wind turbines;

(2) A provision for energy co-operatives and wind project auctions via a tendering process (suggesting no one is getting rich off taxpayers);

(3) Compensation when real estate values are adversely affected by the installation of wind turbines;

(4) A great deal of “meaningful” public consultation; and

(5) A democratic government and bureaucracy that actually seems to listen to people.

In Ontario, on the other hand, we have the Green Energy Act and wind farms are a bane to civilization as we know it. Just double the population of Denmark and such a difference. In Ontario, the Act itself is partially to blame, as few appeals are allowed, as is the unilateral “my way or the highway” attitude of the McGuinty government. And, of those appeals concerning zoning that find their way to the Ontario Municipal Board, most lose in favour of the wind turbines. I mean, not even local municipal councils can impact a decision related to the Act.

Now compare that paternalistic attitude to what is going on Denmark. On page 3 of the Spiegel article, it states:

Wind parks [note they are not called wind farms], particularly on land, also have their opponents in Denmark. But then the government goes about making the wind turbines more appealing to locals. The agency offers incentives: A portion of the profits from the wind energy generated flows back into the communities, where it’s used for environmental projects. ‘That’s a nice additional source of income for them,’ [Hanne] Windemuller says [a legal expert for the Danish Energy Agency].

If the construction of a wind turbine threatens to erode the value of nearby real estate, the owners receive compensation. Furthermore, the state acts as a guarantor should a local operator association go bankrupt [which, no doubt would still be less expensive than huge subsidies and law suits]. ‘This takes away the locals’ anxieties about joining forces and investing in wind power.’

An added benefit is that there are not as many wind-power-related lawsuits in Denmark as there are in Germany. Instead, there are two boards to hear citizens’ objections, each of which is presided over by a judge. ‘Anyone who has objections can voice them there,’ Windemuller says. It takes between six months and a year for the arbiter to reach a decision, and there are no provisions for appeal. ‘As far as I know, a lawsuit has never been brought before a normal court,’ says Windemuller, as she enters the conference room right on time for her next meeting.” [My highlighting and comments in square brackets.]

My conclusions? It’s not only about ideology. It’s about laws and government policy. However, I doubt we (who live in one of Canada’s provinces or territories) will learn from the successes of other countries like Denmark, because at its core, the majority of Canadians are not convinced the planet is warming, let alone that it is due to human causes. I do tend to accept the warming part, just not the aspect that developed countries are to blame, as that whole issue was too closely aligned with cap-and-trade systems and other wealth redistribution programs.

But, I do envy Denmark in the way it is handling things. A recipe for modern democracy indeed!

One thought on “Social consensus key to Denmark embracing wind energy

  1. The general assumption in the Green/left community is that opposition to wind,solar,tidal,geo thermal is financed by the fossel fuels industry to kill cheap competition the way big auto killed the electric car.

    Opposition groups need to be clear that they have nothing to do with “Big Oil” or related lobby groups.

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