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Denmark predicts gas networks will use only biogas in 2034

13 January 2022 Cristina Brooks

Energinet expects that if biogas production continues to grow, the fuel will be able to meet 75% of Denmark's gas consumption in 2030 and all of it by 2034.

Biogas' share of total Danish gas consumption reached 25% in 2021, up from just over 21% in 2020, said state-owned Energinet, the country's system operator for electricity and natural gas.

The network operator welcomed the role of increased biogas supplies in lowering its gas network's CO2 emissions, a result of more biogas-producing plants connecting to networks.

Denmark has promoted the use of biogas through public subsidies, including as a fuel for transportation as well as for electricity and gas networks, aiming for targets obligated by the EU's Renewable Energy Directive. In 2020, it halted subsidies for new production plants, but kept subsidies intact for existing plants through 2032.

However, biogas is increasingly used in gas networks for heating, according to the Danish Energy Agency.

More and more biogas plants are connecting to the gas transmission and distribution system, or 51 since 2016. For example, Sønderjysk Biogas Plant Bevtoft, an anaerobic digestion plant that uses manure and straw, was connected to the system that year.

Energinet Deputy Director Jeppe Danø said the increase in plants gives more consumers a green option for domestic heating. It also facilitated a transition for other gas network users, including district heating plants, gas-powered vehicles, and manufacturing plants.

Using more biogas increases Danish energy security and improves distribution, said Energinet.

Emissions goals for heating

In December, the EU released its proposed revision of gas market regulations. The gas decarbonization strategy would see a ramping up of the use of low-carbon gases, like biogas, biomethane, and hydrogen in networks as the bloc seeks to become climate-neutral by 2050.

But Denmark is far ahead of the EU proposals with its gas network conversion.

In April, Energinet established a new system operator to oversee electricity, gas, and heating sector greening to ensure that gas networks can help it reach net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

In 2020, a new Danish Climate Agreement incentivized heating consumers to swap their fossil fuel-powered boilers for heat pumps and district heating, which covered 50% of national heat demand.

For now, biomass fuels both networks and district heating, but hydrogen fuel could replace biomass if it becomes more widely available, according to the Danish UK Embassy.

Energinet is also considering a pipeline to export Danish hydrogen to German industrial customers. "In future, we will probably need to convert very large quantities of green electricity into hydrogen—hydrogen which may then be transported in existing gas pipes to make both Danish and European industry greener," said Energinet in a statement on its new system operator.

Shifting away from wood

Denmark's expected use of more biogas from corn, beets, and manure for renewable energy diverges from the trend of using increasing amounts of wood.

The country's energy mix included 86.4% renewables, and woody biomass created 48% of this energy in 2018, according to the agency.

Between the 1980s and 2000, Denmark used mostly waste and straw for bioenergy. Since 2010, it has used more woody biomass, for example wood pellets in district heating plants converted from fossil fuel use.

The government in 2020 announced new sustainability measures for woody biomass due to the role that forests around the world play as carbon sinks preventing climate change. More than half of Denmark's woody biomass is imported from countries like Estonia, Latvia, the US, and Russia.

The EU's main policy driver for renewable energy, the Renewable Energy Directive, still considers woody biomass to be a source of renewable energy, which in 2019 provoked a lawsuit from NGOs.

But last year's proposed revision to the Renewable Energy Directive, known as RED II, would place new limits on wood as a source of renewable energy, and forbid state subsidies for electricity-only forest biomass power plants from 2026.

However, the European Commission still plans to allow subsidies for forest biomass-powered electricity in poorer regions.

Posted 13 January 2022 by Cristina Brooks, Senior Journalist, Climate and Sustainability

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