Copenhagen champions the sustainability movement: How does Australia stack up?

Denmark’s interactive Climate Safari exhibition signifies a national push to engage the youth in renewable energy practices, but research suggests Australia might be falling behind. So how can Australia make the most of the global sustainability movement? 

CLIMATE SAFARI: Ørsted’s green energy efforts mirror the ideals of the Copenhagen community. (Source: Annie McCann)

Annie McCann

Danish power company Ørsted has collaborated with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to introduce children to Climate Safari: a 360-degree film experience of planet Earth in the heart of Copenhagen. Throughout September, Climate Safari will combine virtual reality with a deeper message to raise sustainability awareness for up to 1,000 visitors at a time.

While Australians might be baffled by the idea of a wealthy power company promoting green practices, Senior Advisor for the Danish Energy Federation at the Confederation of Danish Industries (DI) Hans Peter Slente says sustainability is part and parcel of producing energy in Denmark.

“[Ørsted] have changed their company in a more green and renewable direction, so this is a useful campaign,” Slente said.

“I think it’s useful to all of us. Usually energy is just something you switch on, and it’s there. But it is, in fact, beneficial that we all know where it comes from and that there are choices to be made.”

Ørsted’s green influence

Ørsted, who last year changed their name from Danish Oil and Natural Gas (DONG) as part of a green initiative, created the world’s first wind farm “Vindeby” in 1991. Now, the company exports renewables internationally, and has just launched the world’s largest wind farm – the “Walney Extension” – in the United Kingdom.

“Ørsted are quite optimistic about their prospects,” Slente said. “Not only in the European home turf, but also areas such as China, Taiwan, the US, Australia [and] India.”

Companies like Ørsted have invested heavily in renewable technology to make Denmark one of the top 5 greenest countries on earth. Australia, however, falls outside of the top 20.

BIGGER PICTURE: Explore renewable trends and statistics from around the world.

Australia’s untapped renewable energy opportunities

Nordic countries such as Denmark, Iceland and Sweden use more renewable than non-renewable energy. Australia ranks lower, with renewables accounting for less than 20% of the nation’s output.

But more recent developments in hydro, wind and solar technology are estimated to boost the country’s renewables figure to 33.3% by 2020. One Australian National University report claims that the country could go further, with renewables able to support 100% of Australia’s consumption by 2030.

“All the evidence points to Australia’s capacity to be a renewable superpower, with all the economic and environmental benefits that come with that,” Energy Change Institute Director Professor Ken Baldwin said in a recent ECI article.

Tasmania and South Australia are leading the clean energy charge, with the Renewable Energy Index predicting that both states will become strong exporters of clean power.

Denmark sets example for Australia’s green workforce ambitions

Denmark boasted more than 31,000 green jobs in its energy sector in 2016. This could become a similar reality for Australia, which last year saw more than 10,000 jobs created for the development of national energy projects.

Through campaigns like Climate Safari, energy companies worldwide could follow Denmark’s lead to successfully inspire future generations.

“It could incentivise some of the young people to take an active interest in the energy industry [and] attract more attention from potential workers,” Slente said. “It will be just wonderful.”

SOCIAL IMPACT: Ørsted employs 5,600 Danish workers through operations and initiatives such as Climate Safari. (Source: Annie McCann)

This article is written for an Australian audience and could be published on www.sbs.com.au/news/topic/world.