Stockholm (NordSIP) – The proposal presented by the Danish government in April to meet Paris Agreement CO2 emission reduction targets is being threatened by agreements with some of the world’s biggest tech giants to build data centres in the country, a confidential memo sent to opposition parties has revealed.
The energy proposal, which aims to cover half of Denmark’s energy consumption with renewable energy by 2030, includes building Denmark’s largest ever wind farm and substantially reducing the prices Danes pay for electricity. However, figures calculated by the government itself suggest that CO2 emissions are expected to rise by between 5 and 10 per cent due to the enormous amounts of energy the data centres being opened by Google, Apple and Facebook in Denmark are expected to consume.
The energy proposal is by itself predicted by the government to reduce Denmark’s greenhouse gas emissions by 4-5 million tonnes of CO2 by 2030. But this calculation does not account for the estimated increase of CO2 emissions by about 8-9 million tonnes in large part due to the energy consumed by the data centres. According to an analysis conducted by Cowi, a sustainability consultancy, and the Danish energy council [Energistyrelsen], a single data centre will increase Danish electricity consumption by about 4 per cent, on a par with a city the size of Odense.
According to the government’s own estimates in the leaked memo, therefore, Denmark is expected to emit between 46 and 47.7 million tonnes of CO2 by 2030, up from between 43.4 and 43.7 million tonnes in 2020, meaning a rise of 5.3 per cent in the best case.
The government is emphasising that the amount of data centres to be built remains uncertain, but the expectation is that there will be six of them in Denmark by 2030. Apple is already currently building in Viborg, Facebook in Odense and Google just began construction in Fredericia.
The revelations are due to the work of John Nordbo, the Denmark Head of Climate at Care, an NGO, who managed to obtain the confidential memo actually sent to opposition parties in parliament as part of ongoing negotiations on the government package, and which he shared with Adam Hannestad of the daily Politiken.
Following the public revelation of the estimates, opposition predictably parties met the government with ferocious criticism (despite, apparently, being privy to them), on everything from the shortcomings of its proposal to the lack of transparency on the data centre agreements with the tech giants. These agreements are secret and it is thus far unclear where they will obtain their electricity from, or whether they will contribute to its greening within Denmark.
The government has not yet responded, while several opposition parties are calling for at least three wind farms the size of the one proposed in the government’s energy plan and at least one of the tech giants, Facebook, already suggesting it will be using energy from Norwegian wind farms (and sending the bill to Denmark).
The main opposition party, the Social Democrats, has already proposed a more ambitious plan than the government’s, in the expectation that climate change will play a central role in the next general election, due to be held within a year.
This increasingly seems almost certain to be the case.
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