In case you don’t follow the happenings in the Denmark energy markets (because you have a life), you might have missed the massive news from DONG (Danish Oil and Natural Gas), the majority state-owned energy company. In August, DONG announced they were selling off the last of their oil and natural gas fields, amounting to more than $1 billion. This is a seismic shift in that country’s (and companies) stance on energy, as DONG used to be one of Europe’s most coal-intensive utilities. Now they are the world’s biggest producer of offshore wind power. They have been transitioning coal plants to burning wood pellets and are on track to be utterly coal-free by 2023. DONG started this shift back in 2008. They received a considerable boost from Goldman Sachs, who took an 18% position in the company in 2014 (the Danish Government is still the controlling interest) who saw that offshore wind could be one of the prevailing technologies long term.
Wood pellets – photo courtesy of DONG Energy A/S.
Offshore wind (and even the wood burning pellets) can currently only compete with coal and natural gas due to the subsidies they receive. DONG believes the costs are coming down so significantly that they will be able to compete without subsidies, and earlier this year they announced plans to build two wind projects in the German North Sea with no government subsidies. The company is doing exceptionally well financially with their EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) more than doubled from 2011-2016, and they reduced their emissions by 70% during that time as well.
However, that is in Europe. DONG wants to crack the US market, but they may find it more difficult. As Joseph Bower, a Harvard Business School Professor who has written a case study on DONG stated, “They live in a country where people will literally pay more for electricity if its sourced green and they are coming to a country where the only thing that counts is price (Kent 2017).” The price of electricity in Denmark is $0.41 per kWh. In the US the prices average $0.12.
It will be interesting to watch DONG’s attempts to build wind farms off the coast of NJ, VA, and Massachusetts to see how their business model will work in the least cost price conscious market of the United States. Based on the rapidly declining cost of wind power (including off shore wind), I believe that they will succeed.
Kent, Sarah 2017. “Danish Energy Company Is Turning the Page on Oil and Gas”. 31 August. Accessed 3 October 2017. https://www.wsj.com/articles/danish-energy-company-is-turning-the-page-on-oil-and-gas-1504171801
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