Useful Renewables

Thursday 04 Jun 20


Peter Hauge Madsen
Head of Department
DTU Wind Energy
+45 46 77 50 01

The movie "Planet of the Humans" has been seen by more than 8 million people on YouTube. Its message is – in a nutshell - that renewable energy is useless

By Peter Hauge Madsen, Head of Department, DTU Wind Energy Brian Vad Mathiesen, Professor, AAU Department of Planning 


We are not in the movie, but we would have liked to. Then we could have shown Gibbs and Moore some more optimistic examples of green technology. Denmark has a leading role wind energy research and development. Our wind turbines now cover almost 50 per cent of Danish electricity consumption - an increase of 30 per cent since 2010. In less than six months, a wind turbine has produced enough energy to cover the energy used on to build it. That is close to nil compared to the energy used to build fossil fuel or biomass power plants. Today, the price of a kilowatt-hour is just a quarter of what it started to be. It makes wind energy the cheapest form of electrical energy by far.


Despite the film's polemic angle, we agree that there is an important debate to take on renewable energy. Everything that is green is not only good, and there are challenges in developing a climate-neutral energy system. Sun and wind do not solve the world's climate problems alone. Yes, biomass is a debatable form of renewable energy, and there are strong commercial interests in the renewable energy development. But abandoning green technology or denying commercial investment does not make the world better a place.


The crucial thing is to create a smart energy system with synergies between energy efficiency and renewable energy. Synergies between electricity, heat, industry and transport. This energy system integrates the electricity grid, the district gas and heating grid and the energy storage. It is pivotal in achieving the Danish climate targets as cheaply as possible. In this system electricity can be exchanged with the rest of the world, stored as heat or in batteries, e.g. electric cars. It can be converted by electrolysis to hydrogen, ammonia or electro-fuels which can push the oil out of the heavy transport.


We have already come a third of the way. With the right political will we can be climate neutral in 2040-50. 


Renewable energy is useful.


Link to the Column in Weekendavisen (paywall):


Link to 30 min. movie version on YouTube.