Got Denmark envy? Wait until you hear about its energy policies.

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from VOX,

Bernie Sanders’s unexpectedly strong presidential campaign has drawn a great deal of attention to the small Northern European nation of Denmark (population 5.6 million), which Sanders and many other liberals cite as a social democratic success story.

In response to this clamor, Vox has produced a lot of great Denmark content, answering such questions as, “What is a Denmark?” I particularly like this first-person account from a real-life Dane.

Missing, however, has been any love for one of Denmark’s coolest features, namely it’s progressive energy policies. If the US left is really about “getting to Denmark” (a hip new phrase coined by political scientist Francis Fukuyama), this is a great place to look.

The history of Denmark’s energy policy, briefly

Back in the early 1970s, Denmark got almost all its energy from imported oil. Then came the oil crisis, which, naturally, had a big impact. Political discussions throughout the ’80s resulted in two big strategic decisions.

One, Denmark would develop its own North Sea oil and gas resources. Two, it would implement a green energy transition, or grøn omstilling, to get off fossil fuels entirely.

Both strategies meant it would never again suffer at the mercy of international oil markets.

Here’s how the first strategy has gone:

Ambitious targets

Denmark’s ambitions have steadily risen over the years. In 2012, after a deliberative, country-wide, multi-stakeholder process (so Danish), the country implemented a new Energy Agreement, which among other things established some stringent targets.

-By 2020, Denmark aims to get 50 percent of its electricity from wind power and 35 percent of its total energy consumption from renewable sources.
-By 2030, no more coal.
-By 2035, 100 percent of electricity from renewable sources.
-By 2050, 100 of all the country’s final energy consumption — electricity, heat, transport, industrial — from renewable sources.

Yup: completely fossil-fuel-free by 2050. Sounds pretty good! Or as the Danes say, det lyder temmelig godt!

Maximizing local resources

Denmark boasts unusually high wind speeds, so they’ve built the hell out of wind turbines. Wind hit 42 percent of total Danish power in 2015 and is targeted for 50 percent by 2020.

Taxing and spending

As Matt Yglesias noted in his piece on Denmark, the country pays for its high level of social services with very high taxes on both the wealthy and the middle class.

The same is true of its energy policies.

The Danes have had a carbon tax in place since 1992. It covers all fossil fuel consumption except that used to generate electricity, which is covered by separate energy taxes.

The carbon tax is now up to $31 USD per ton; 40 percent of the revenue goes to environmental spending and 60 percent goes back to industry, to reward energy and environmental innovations.

The country also has a number of taxes on energy — Danes pay the world’s highest per-kilowatt electricity rates, mainly because Denmark crams a lot of taxes into electricity bills, a higher share than any other EU country.

Denmark also has a 150 percent tax on new cars. Yes, 150 percent — recently down from 180 percent! There’s also a 95 percent surtax on heavier cars and an annual tax on fuel inefficiency. Electric cars, meanwhile, were exempt from auto taxes through 2015 and can still be parked for free in any Danish city.

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