Denmark has announced an ambitious goal to wean itself off of fossil fuels and power the entire country with renewables by 2050.
What sets the Scandinavian country apart from other countries is that it is applying this goal to electrical production as well as transportation. Although some might argue the Danes are being overly optimistic, they are already above 40 percent renewable power on their electric grid and are headed toward 50 percent by 2020.
However, Denmark has already run into several problems scaling up renewable energy capacity. Renewables such as wind and solar cost little to nothing to run after installation, but they cause power prices to crash at what were once the most profitable times of day. This can cause conventional power plants to shut down—which are needed to supply backup power for times of low wind and sunlight. To counter this, the Danish government has offered short-term subsidies in hopes of keeping the conventional power plants afloat. In Denmark and throughout Europe, governments are realizing that electricity markets will need to be redesigned.
Even if Denmark succeeds with the electric market, eliminating fossil fuels from transportation poses another major hurdle to its 2050 goal. The surest route to this is through electric vehicles. In nearby Norway, Tesla Motors sold 1,493 Model S sedans in April, breaking the country’s all-time vehicle sales record. This was more than double its typical monthly sales in Norway and well in excess of volumes typical for the top monthly seller in that market, according to registrations reported by Norwegian transportation officials.
Elsewhere in Europe, Italy recently became the first country in Europe to legally require "advanced biofuels" in cars and trucks. The new fuels are made from agricultural waste such as straw rather than crops, and reduce the amount of land taken out of food production. The first commercial scale plant making fuel from straw opened in Italy last year. Beginning in 2018, all fuel suppliers in the country will have to include 0.6 percent advanced biofuel in gasoline and diesel. This will rise to 1 percent by 2022.