New Report Reveals The Most Energy-Intensive Industries In Denmark

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In a new report, based on the newest Danish statistics, Thea Gehrchen from has summed up just how much energy the different industries in Denmark consume, which comes in quite handy while we wait for our new government to release a new proposal for a national climate law for the country, with binding targets no less. I asked Thea if she would help translate the very nice graphics she had made in the report so that they could be used to inspire CleanTechnica’s readers.

The Studstrup 400 MW power plant as seen from my bike commuting to Aarhus. It has been burning coal up until 2015, but is now burning biomass. Image: Jesper Berggreen

I for one was surprised by some of the findings. It turns out that 3 large sectors of industries in Denmark consume 67% of the energy total. So, apart from planning to increase the capacity of renewable energy and expanding the grid to cope with it, maybe there is something to be said about energy efficiency in these particular groups? Indeed there is. Let’s have a look at the numbers.

Plastic, Glass, & Concrete

Image: Thea Gehrchen,

The plastics and rubber industries produce finished plastic and rubber products and deliver to other industries. Larger items such as building supplies, as well as larger plastic tanks and containers are also being produced. Within the glass and ceramics industry, the focus is on the manufacture of glass for various products such as drinking glasses, bottles, and more. In addition, ceramic insulators and insulating parts are also manufactured.

The concrete and brickwork industry manufactures bricks, tiles, and cement. This industry is thus large in the construction market and manufactures a lot of basic materials for use in construction. Concrete production is one of the main energy consumers here, but an interesting plan is underway at one of the country’s largest plants, Aalborg Portland. Apart from providing heating for large parts of the city, they will provide cooling too. So-called circular cooperation is in play, and it goes to show that when industries communicate, waste is minimized.

Food, Beverage, & Tobacco

The pie chart above shows how much of the total energy consumption the food industry consumes versus the beverage and tobacco products industry. It’s remarkable how much energy is used in producing food. It’s a very diverse industry and it’s not easy to say just where efforts in energy efficiency would make the most difference, but one area is obvious to look at: food waste.

According to in Denmark, more than 700,000 tonnes of food is wasted each year that could in fact have been eaten instead. Household food waste amounts to 260,000 tonnes per year. In the service sector, there is an annual food waste of 227,000 tonnes, of which 163,000 tonnes is from retail, 29,000 tonnes from hotels and restaurants, and 31,000 tonnes from institutions and large kitchens every single year. Food waste from primary production amounts to 100,000 tonnes per year, while the food industry accounts for an annual food waste of 133,000 tonnes.

Although a lot is actually being done in this area, it’s still far from enough. Personally I think it’s a disgrace that high tech industrialized countries fail to address this issue fully. As I write this, my friends in Zambia are running out of food due to a failed rain season, while their government quarrels about how to execute relief programs. We have to do better. And we haven’t even touched on the subject of using crops for vehicle fuels.

Oil Refineries, Etc.

Oil refineries, etc. is number 3 on the list of energy consumers. It’s noteworthy that these industries have the third largest energy consumption, despite having so few workplaces and full-time employees compared to the remaining industries in this comparison. The solution in this field is obvious: Use less oil and gas. I know we use oil and gas for much more than transportation and heating, but let’s be honest, converting transportation, heating, cooling, and manufacturing to use electricity originating from renewables will make huge difference in terms of pollution. Yes, energy consumption per se will still be high, but as long as the power comes from wind and solar, we won’t choke to death while we enjoy the comfort of civilization.


All the Danish industries in this report consume just short of 100,000 Terajoules per year, or 28 Terawatt Hours, which happens to be the amount of energy our sun delivers to earth’s land surface in about 4 seconds! Assuming half of earth’s 148,939,063 square km of land surface receives on average 1.05 Gigawatt of solar energy at noon in cloudless weather, averaging 23,000 Terawatt globally at any given point in time, when clouds, dawn, and dusk are taken into account (Please correct me if this crude calculation is wrong).

Cartoon by Olivia V. Berggreen

The top 3 consumers are responsible for 25.6%, 24.1%, and 17.3%, and then there is quite a way down to 4th place with 7.4%. I think it is vital to employ massive amounts of renewables in the coming years, but it is obvious that we will reach our targets much faster if we focus on these main consumers in terms of directly implementing renewable technology on site, and reduce waste. I know, it sounds ridiculous to install giant wind turbines close to oil extraction sites, but all tricks count, as we try to prevent a trip to rock bottom.

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Jesper Berggreen

Jesper had his perspective on the world expanded vastly after having attended primary school in rural Africa in the early 1980s. And while educated a computer programmer and laboratory technician, working with computers and lab-robots at the institute of forensic medicine in Aarhus, Denmark, he never forgets what life is like having nothing. Thus it became obvious for him that technological advancement is necessary for the prosperity of all humankind, sharing this one vessel we call planet earth. However, technology has to be smart, clean, sustainable, widely accessible, and democratic in order to change the world for the better. Writing about clean energy, electric transportation, energy poverty, and related issues, he gets the message through to anyone who wants to know better. Jesper is founder of and a long-term investor in Tesla, Ørsted, and Vestas.

Jesper Berggreen has 238 posts and counting. See all posts by Jesper Berggreen