Innovative Democracy, Political Economy, and the Transition to Renewable Energy. A full-Scale Experiment in Denmark 1976-2013


  • Frede Hvelplund Department of Development and Planning, Aalborg University



The period 1976-2002 can be regarded as the  first phase of renewable energy and conservation (REC) development, as the REC technologies were still a supplement to energy systems mainly based upon fossil fuels  (here named FFU technologies).  In this first phase  of the Danish development, a ”Green energy cluster” consisting of renewable energy technologies such as wind power, solar energy, and biomass  and energy conservation technologies was developed. This development was implemented despite a systematic resistance from the Ministry of Finance, the industrial establishment and the established fossil fuel-based power companies, which regarded the new  “Green energy technologies” as competitors to their large power plants based upon coal and oil. Independent lobbyists such as energy grass roots organisations, new companies within the green technology cluster and some active politicians were able to give political momentum to a development of a spectrum of green energy technologies. This process of organisations independent of existing economic interests being given democratic influence is here defined as the innovative democracy process.

In the period 2000-2013, Denmark entered a second phase with REC technologies substantially increasing their share of the energy supply and on their way of  becoming the main energy technologies.

Meanwhile from 2002- 2008, a right-wing government lead by Anders Fogh Rasmussen (AFR) closed down innovative democracy process and a “non-policy” relying on existing market actors and existing market conditions was implemented. In this period the development of renewable energy was almost brought to a halt.

But in 2008 AFR made a political u-turn, and declared his support to a 100% Renewable Energy future.

In 2012 a new center left Government made an energy plan with the goal of 100% Renewable Energy in 2050. This  goal was supported by a large majority in the Parliament in an agreement in 2012.

The conclusion of this paper is that both in the first phase of renewable energy development, and in the second phase, “market conditions” are political constructions. As the competition between FFU and REC technologies is  becoming more tough in the second phase than it was in the first phase, there is an increased need for a strong innovative democracy  process in order to avoid  REC technologies being pushed back by strong FFU organizations now fighting for market survival. In addition to this, the character of the second phase development entails a need for a new infrastructure at the consumer level that can handle an increasing amount of fluctuating REC technologies. Therefore, a successful second phase transition from FFU to REC energy technologies requires an introduction af a second phase innovative democracy process with increased ownership shares of wind power capacity by consumer- and municipality owned cogeneration plants. In that way the owners of the wind power integration infrastructrure such as district heating systems, heat storage facilities and heat pumps will be given a part of the responsibility of integrating “their own” wind turbines in the power and heat grid systems. Furthermore there still is a need for independent  NGO commitment and financially empowered participation from groups that are independent of the FFU organizations.


Author Biography

Frede Hvelplund, Department of Development and Planning, Aalborg University

Department of Development and Planning, Aalborg University.