This blog was written by Jennifer Rennicks, former Senior Director of Policy & Communications at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and co-authored by John Wilson, former Director of Research at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.Guest Blog | December 14, 2009
Are LEGO bricks what we need to change our energy future? And why were people playing with them at a side event at “the biggest intergovernmental meeting in history“?
The LEGO game was just one of many exhibits at the Bright Green Expo which I attended in Copenhagen, Denmark yesterday. The dynamic clean energy economy on display at the forum was a refreshing, but somewhat overwhelming in contrast to the unfounded and persistent stereotypes of energy production back in the Southeast USA.
Two exhibits in particular were striking: the municipality of Frederickshaven, a city of 25,000 people that aims to run on 100% renewable energy by 2015, and Bornholm Island, an island in the Baltic Sea of almost 50,000 people that has embarked on a 20 year planning and development process to integrate renewable energy throughout their economy. Frederickshaven already obtains 24% of its energy from wind and waste, and Bornholm over 30% from wind alone. Meanwhile, the Southeast USA is debating whether it can “realistically” obtain 20% of our energy from renewable resources.
While the windmills and solar panels were everywhere to be seen, I was also struck by the heavy emphasis on bioenergy by Europeans. Wood is the answer to many questions here, I even took a packet of laundry detergent enhanced with enzymes enabling a lower washing temperature and a rain poncho made from plants to wear on a boat tour later today to see a near-shore wind farm (more to come on that).
One of the most interesting points is the close relationship between biomass-fueled electric generation and combined heat and power (CHP, also known as co-generation). We’ve been making this link for several years but haven’t been able to make much headway in the Southeast. Here, the efficiency of biopower is much higher than in the USA because they also generate heat for use in district heating systems.
There was also a strong emphasis on energy efficiency, both improved building practices and better technology. Ever heard of Z-Wave? Z-Wave is a business alliance creating products that can combine smart metering with home control solutions such as lighting, thermostat, appliance and window shade control. Window shades? Open them in the morning to light up the house, then close them during the day to keep the A/C bill low. You can even activate this system using your computer at work or your mobile phone while running errands. The Energy Aware House, very cool!
Towering over the rest of the exhibits was a model Vestas wind turbine beside a monitor showing how much energy had been generated, how many tons of CO2 had been saved, how many homes were being powered and how many turbines were being erected around the world during the 2 days of the forum – in the moments I stood beside the display, the numbers ticked upwards.
While there were some companies from the USA in the mix, this was very much a showcase of Danish and European leadership on clean energy. I was very inspired by this Expo (even staying so long I was more than 2 hours late to a briefing session with climate advocates) and will enthusiastically join the many people here in bringing back some great ideas and vision for our own leadership in the Southeast.