Our woman in Washington leading by example: how Green Frontline Missions are making an impression

Twenty selected Danish embassies are walking the talk: demonstrating to their host countries how easy it is to go green, whilst generating new business opportunities for the country’s experts

Near Embassy Row in Washington DC, the Danish government is demonstrating how retrofitting buildings with solar panels can reduce reliance on burning fossil fuels. 

The Danish Embassy’s solar set-up has generated 11 percent of its overall electricity demand and slashed its CO2 emissions by 13 metric tonnes as of this February, the embassy announced on Facebook.

Last summer, the embassy finished installing a solar panel array to help meet its ambitious sustainability goals. The set-up is expected to meet nearly 20 percent of the embassy’s electricity demand while reducing CO2 emissions by roughly 35 metric tonnes a year, the Danish ambassador Lone Dencker Wisborg recently stated in a press release.

A global strategy
It is part of a global strategy to encourage countries that produce the most greenhouse gasses to adopt sustainable alternatives. In the United States, some states are already partnering with the Danes to develop their green infrastructure. 

“All of Denmark, the whole society, is talking sustainability by 2030,”  revealed Zheng Grace Ma, an associate professor at the University of Southern Denmark’s Center for Energy Informatics.

The country aims to reduce its domestic CO2 emissions by 70 percent by 2030, compared to its 1990 emissions. However, Denmark’s greenhouse gas emissions represent only 0.1 percent of total global emissions, according to its Foreign Ministry website. 

Aware of the severity of the climate crisis, the Foreign Ministry has designated 20 embassies as Green Frontline Missions and tasked them with advocating for green solutions in countries that are the largest greenhouse gas emitters in an effort to accelerate the green transition.

Promoting a green agenda
Peter Esmann, the embassy’s advisor on offshore wind, said the embassy does what it can to promote the green agenda, which includes trying to “walk the talk” when it comes to renewable energy. 

“We do whatever is possible in the embassy to be as green as possible, and the solar panels are one large step,” he explained.  

Esmann said there is no concrete target set forth by the Foreign Ministry for reducing emissions, leaving the embassy “free” to pursue its own sustainability projects. 

“It’s at our own volition we do these sustainability projects, but it is expected that we be a beacon to other embassies and show the way forward,” he said. 

Procuring partnerships
Other projects in the works include a new, more energy efficient heating and ventilation system. But sustainable changes to the embassy itself are only one component of the Green Frontline Mission.

A Foreign Ministry priority is promoting Danish green energy companies, according to Esmann. The embassy works to facilitate partnerships linking the Danish government and companies with US state and economic development agencies interested in procuring green power.

Central to this initiative is knowledge-sharing at a government level. The US has been a frontrunner in partnering with companies to install wind turbines in California, Texas and the Midwest since the mid-1980s. Now, the East Coast states are interested in making the transition as well, contends Esmann.

Denmark has the know-how
According to Ma, wind energy is not a standalone industry. Both onshore and offshore wind turbines require a wind power plant that needs to be connected to the power grid and integrated with the electricity market. 

“Denmark has more advanced knowledge and experience with the wind energy ecosystem,” she said. “It’s very famous for its green technology.”

The New York State Energy Research and Development Agency (NYSERDA) has formed a  partnership with the Danish government to take advantage of Danish expertise. 

“The Danish Ministry for Energy, Utilities and Climate has provided an exchange of knowledge and expertise that will allow New York State to grow its nation-leading offshore wind industry,” a spokesperson for NYSERDA confirmed.

The collaboration has helped facilitate conversations with wind industry leaders to inform research and develop an infrastructure model pertaining to the supply chain, workforce development, distribution options and getting materials, according to NYSERDA. 

Key delegation trips
In addition to sharing industry know-how, the embassy organises delegation trips to introduce Danish businesses to contacts in the US. According to Esmann, the embassy recently invited 14 small Danish businesses to visit the East Coast and meet established companies in the green energy sector.

Bo Jørgensen, the head of the University of Southern Denmark’s Center for Energy Informatics, confirmed: “The Foreign Minister and Minister of Commerce are promoting tech trends from Danish companies by creating collaboration with companies in the US.”

Jørgensen, who has previously travelled with a delegation, said it’s difficult for many companies to get a foothold in another country if they have no track record – especially across continents. When companies come as part of a Danish government delegation, it generates more trust, he assures.  

Experience and expertise
NYSERDA’s current project under the partnership involves introducing Danish companies with “experience and expertise in offshore wind” to the local workforce and businesses to aid supply chain growth, its spokesperson said.

“Denmark is a very small country, and our CO2 footprint is not that large,” concludes Esmann.

“But we have a lot of competencies in these industries that could make quite an impact on the world.”