When I visited Copenhagen in March this year, I saw something that troubled me and I have been digesting it for the last 4 months.

I was in the city to look at the cycling  and walking bridges and on my first day I visited the new ‘Kissing bridge’ at Nyhavn and saw this.


So I asked a man walking across the bridge if he spoke English and could tell me what the plumes of smoke were? By serendipity he spoke English AND he worked in Energy. So  he explained to me the chimneys were coal, new Biomass and waste incineration for district heating.

It was very cold in Copenhagen on that day. It had been snowing and there was a wind chill by the harbour. It smelt strongly of air pollution.

The next day I was taken on a guided cycle ride of both the cycling bridges and some of the tourist spots. I snapped this alternative view of the Little Mermaid.


The narrative on the world stage is that Denmark is a world leader in renewable wind energy and is sometimes hitting more than 100% of its energy use with renewables. But for me the polluting plumes of smoke jarred with this image.

In another conversation with an employee in  local government, I was told that they rely on our waste being shipped from UK for waste incineration to heat homes because they have gotten too good with their recycling!

I had very personal reasons for being interested in how an advanced country like Denmark was managing heating energy. In 2015 our communal boiler was decommissioned and it was decided to install individual boilers in the 4 flats in our block.

Two of my neighbours decided to go for gas boilers and one for electric. And meanwhile I waited for two years without heating, conflicted as to which was the right investment,  gas or electric central heating? My instinct told me electric but all the experts were saying gas boilers were x 3 more efficient.

The first winter without heating was very mild and short and it was not a big sacrifice but the second one was harsh and long and  all the warming bowls of  porridge and layers of woolly jumpers were not working. On very cold winter evenings I was sitting shivering in my coat and I eventually got the flu. So I finally plumped for an efficient gas boiler which was installed in November 2017.

There are still plenty of reasons I don’t like burning ‘transition’ gas. Political (over reliance on dodgy regimes), energy security and environmental. It pollutes and it fries the planet. I think it is a false dawn.

Investing in Electric Vehicle infrastructure before electric heating infrastructure is leaving us with messed up priorities, where a car is more important than heating or cooking. We are about to hit zero net carbon quicker than anticipated. And we are woefully unprepared for renewable generated essential energy for cooking and heating.



There seems to have been a skewed logic at play here. Inefficient electric cars have been sold to the Climate community as good and desirable.( Even though in a city like London we should be able to provide alternatives for nearly all personal journeys by walking, cycling and public transport) But inefficient electric boilers and infrastructure are bad and we must keep burning gas? also remembering that gas boilers are a source of air pollution.

Electric rapid chargers are popping up on pavements in London, with added pavement obstruction and trip hazard…I am told that rapid chargers are less likely to run off renewable energy because of the speed of the electricity demand at the wrong times of day.

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On twitter last week I was in a conversation with someone, based in India, who initially disagreed with my position. He seemed intelligent so I persisted with the discussion. We got on the subject of bitcoin.


He also told me that he recently learnt that the Danish government will be using public subsidised windmills to power the upcoming data centres of private tech corporations such as google and Microsoft. As he said ‘Messed up priorities’ using public resources for private companies. And no sign of heating and cooking becoming 100% renewable? It will be the citizens of Bangladesh and Africa who first become victims of ‘messed up priorities’ when Climate Meltdown causes unbearable heat or flooding. But citizens of UK may find themselves unable to source clean energy diverted to electric cars and data centres.

The energy used in our digital consumption is set to have a bigger impact on global warming than the entire aviation industry

I can foresee a city where electric cars for a small elite and mass surveillance and data harvesting are possible to access from renewables but gas is unburnable for essential cooking and heating. Unless we prioritise electric heating infrastructure NOW we are following in the wrong carbon footprints. We are no longer in transition, we are on countdown to zero net carbon.

At a recent meeting on Climate Change, I was lucky to have a long conversation about the hierarchy of energy use with an expert on wind energy. He sent me this this report, prepared jointly by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21). It identifies key barriers and highlights policy options to boost renewable energy deployment.

Among the key findings:

  • Renewable energy policies must focus on end-use sectors, not just power generation;
  • The use of renewables for heating and cooling requires greater policy attention, including dedicated targets, technology mandates, financial incentives, generation-based incentives, and carbon or energy taxes;
  • Policies in the transport sector require further development, including integrated policies to decarbonise energy carriers and fuels, vehicles and infrastructure;
  • Policies in the power sector must also evolve further to address new challenges.
  • Measures are needed to support the integration of variable renewable energy, taking into account the specific characteristics of solar and wind power
  • Achieving the energy transition requires holistic policies that consider factors beyond the energy sector itself.

The report provides a comprehensive overview of policy measures available to address such challenges.

The first and second  point is most relevant to my position that we need a hierarchy of energy use for he common good where essential cooking and heating are prioritised.  These represent end-use sectors that are prioritised for quality of life of all citizens, not a selected few.

  • Renewable energy policies must focus on end-use sectors, not just power generation;
  • The use of renewables for heating and cooling requires greater policy attention, including dedicated targets, technology mandates, financial incentives, generation-based incentives, and carbon or energy taxes;

Low occupancy cars must be way down the hierarchy for the common good in London. As must data harvesting, mass surveillance and automation.

  1. We need a hierarchy of energy use for the common good prioritising renewables for essential use like water, food production , cooking and heating and public transport
  2. Rationing of energy use and introducing allowances.
  3. Decarbonisation of heating and cooking. Electrifying boilers and electric cooking appliances