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Denmark’s road to resource-efficient industries

18 September 2023

Discover Denmark’s resource-efficient industries

This article is part of an inflight magazine.

Download the full publication and get an introduction to the Danish journey towards energy efficiency in industries, through resource-efficient solutions within food and beverage production.

Image credit: Kalundborg Symbiosis

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With global population and income levels going up, so is the use of resources worldwide. This especially accounts for energy, which is used to power our homes and produce various goods and services, as well as water, which is vital for survival, development, and production across sectors. These precious yet limited resources pose a challenge to industries striving to curtail their substantial daily consumption.

This calls for a paradigm shift towards producing more while using less – not only to reduce environmental impact but also to harness the competitive advantages in heightened production efficiency. Decarbonising energy-intensive industries Industrial sectors are responsible for over 20 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions, placing a high amount of pressure on energy and water resources.

Energy-intensive sectors, such as the food and beverage industry, require significant amounts of energy in the production, process, and transportation of products. It is estimated that the food and beverage industry accounts for approximately 30 per cent of global energy consumption in the industrial sector. Furthermore, the food and beverage processing industry has significant potential for cost reductions, particularly in the area of energy efficiency, where the cost of milk and cheese processing can be reduced by over 30 per cent.

As an important tool to address these challenges, the implementation of energy-efficient solutions is essential. By optimising energy usage and reducing waste, especially in energy-heavy industries, companies can achieve significant cost savings and secure sustainable resource consumption, while enhancing their market competitiveness and improving operational efficiency.

Denmark’s journey towards energy efficiency

Energy efficiency has been an embedded part of Denmark’s mindset for decades, as Denmark has worked with energy efficiency measures since the 70s. With different policies, initiatives, and instruments implemented, spanning from normative, informative, and economic purposes, it has been proved that decoupling economic growth from an increase in energy consumption is possible. Furthermore, there is great potential in harvesting low-hanging fruits from conducting energy efficiency improvements.

Danish food and beverage producers have been refining their methods to produce more with less for a number of years now. The Danish industry as a whole has reduced energy intensity in production by more than 50 percent from 1990 to 2018 and decreased by approximately 40 percent in the EU. The Danish food sector, in particular, has undergone significant development over the years. From the end of the 1960’s, the production value of the Danish food industry has gone up by over 80 percent while the energy consumption from food production has reduced with over 20 percent.

Additionally, the industry has managed to reduce its emissions by 16 percent between 1990 – 2016, while simultaneously increasing production rate by 31 percent.

Therefore, industry stands out as a frontrunner in energy efficiency compared to other sectors of the economy. Experience shows that large efficiency improvements can be achieved through optimised production equipment, building and workflow by realising the full potential of digitalisation and behavioural changes. Moreover, a strong focus from management’s side is needed. Further improvements are obtained by switching to a greener energy supply, and by harvesting the potential in surplus energy and water resources that would otherwise have been wasted.

The solutions needed for a green transition of global industries are in many cases already available and the potential for saving energy is tremendous. Improved efficiency of energy, water, and other resource consumption will allow industry to realise substantial economic gains now while contributing to the realisation of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. Especially in regard to the goals focusing on clean energy, clean water, industry, sustainable cities, and climate action.