News in Digest: Some hit the beach, others birch and moan

Farewell winter, hello sunshine, albeit with an unwelcome interloper

April is the cruellest month – or at least for birch pollen allergy sufferers, which make up almost 20 percent of the population. For the majority, the warm weather has been most welcome, and the air really is as clean as it feels.

Record-low emissions
CO2 emissions fell below 200 grams per consumed kilowatt-hour for the first time ever in 2017, as coal accounted for 17 percent of the country’s energy intake, compared to 38 percent in 2005.

Wind energy led the way with 40 percent, followed by coal, biofuel (14 percent), water (12), natural gas (7), waste (4), nuclear power (3), solar energy (2) and oil (1), according to national energy provider

Electric avenue
The tax minister, Karsten Lauritzen, meanwhile, is considering lowering the tax rate on electricity – at 91.4 øre per kW/h, it is the highest in Europe – to encourage people to favour heat pumps over oil heaters.

The tax currently generates 12.4 billion kroner for the exchequer and calculations show it would cost the state 1 billion kroner to lower the tax by 20 øre, while reducing the electricity bill of a typical Danish family living in a detached house by 800 kroner per year.

A winter’s tail
Danish residents can expect much higher heating bills following a longer winter than normal, which concluded with the fifth coldest March since 1980, in which temperatures were 43 percent lower than in 2017.

The Danish Technological Institute has revealed that its energy needs over the six months ending in March were 4 percent higher than in the same period a year earlier.

Summer loving
However, this month has been much warmer, and April 19 ended up being the earliest summer’s day in over half a century, when temperatures exceeded 25 degrees on 17 April 1964.

Last week also coincided with the start of the dreaded birch pollen season, with a reading of 138 particles per cubic metre in Copenhagen on April 18. The four-week season is expected to peak around the end of the month.

Sun of a birch
“It’s hard to predict how this birch season will be,” chief pollen counter Karen Rasmussen told Astma-Allergi Danmark. “If the hot spring weather continues, as is suggested, we may be in for a bad season.”

One common treatment is a nasal spray, but for many Danes they become an addiction. Some 3.3 million were sold in Denmark last year – an increase of 30 percent compared to just five years ago. Doctors recommend using them for no more than seven to ten days.