China has experienced a staggering industrial and economic development since the early 1980s, which has turned the country into the biggest emitter of carbon emissions in the world. As a result, China committed at COP21 in Paris to top carbon emissions before 2030 and to reduce its energy intensity per capita with 60-65 pct. by 2030. 

The Danish Energy Model has caught attention in the process of sustaining economic growth, while simultaneously reducing the use and dependence on fossil fuels. 

The Danish Energy Model takes a cross-sectoral approach to integrate renewable energy allowing all energy sectors and stakeholders to cooperate. This is considered an inspiration in China as the country works on integrating renewable energy into their energy mix, which is primarily dominated by coal. The Danish Energy Agency (DEA) has since 2009 supported China on promoting renewable energy development in their low-carbon transition.

Opening a renewable energy centre in Beijing

In 2012, the Chinese energy authorities officially opened the China National Renewable Energy Centre (CNREC) in close collaboration with the DEA.

The work at CNREC is inspired by Denmark’s approach to the energy system and DEA’s many years of experience with energy management based on long-term energy planning. Experts from the DEA work closely with CNREC staff on developing strategic energy policies, state-of-the-art methodologies and tools to encourage the use of renewable energy in the Chinese energy system. During the centre’s first three years, it has become one of the major sources for Chinese policy makers looking for expert advice and analysis on renewable energy.  

To prepare for future development of the Chinese energy system, the cooperation has conducted technology catalogues, roadmaps for renewables, models and analysis of the power system and scenario studies for China laying out possible development paths towards a greener future energy system. CNREC is currently developing their flagship publication China Renewable Energy Outlook, which contains scenarios for further integration of renewable energy towards 2030 and 2050.

New agreement with China National Energy Administration on thermal power flexibility

In January 2016 DEA signed a new Memorandum of Understanding on thermal power flexibility with China National Energy Administration. The aim is to use the unique Danish expertise on thermal power plant flexibility to assist China in improving the flexibility of their thermal power plants.

The cooperation will improve the flexibility of the Chinese power system, which is much needed in order to integrate increasing shares of variable renewable energy from biomass, hydro, solar and wind.

Through the Sino-Danish programme, the Chinese thermal power plant sector is engaged in a series of demonstration projects aiming at demonstrating increased operational flexibility as well as fuel flexibility through increased use of biomass. Here, the unique Danish experience on thermal flexibility can offer valuable and critical expertise to the Chinese sector.

Sharing experiences on energy efficiency, from policy to pilot projects 

The Danish Energy Agency has through a number of years worked with capacity building several central Chinese government institutions. Among these is the National Energy Conservation Centre (NECC), which plays a central role. Work programmes and cooperation has so far included development of Energy Efficiency (EE) strategies, pilot projects and policy development on increasing EE measures. The cooperation is currently focused specifically on EE initiatives directed at industry including utilization of surplus heating from industry, power plants and waste incineration.

A pilot project is currently being scoped focusing on the design of energy policy to support development of EE and district heating. The pilot project is expected to benefit from the participation of multiple stakeholders including International Energy Agency, Danish Trade Council, Danish Board of District Heating, Beijing District Heating Group, Chinese National Renewable Energy Centre and the Chinese State Grids Energy Efficiency Department.

Funding from the Danish Climate Envelope

Through the Danish Climate Envelope programme the Danish Energy Agency (DEA) cooperates bilaterally with four emerging economies that experience increasing carbon emissions and have large mitigation potentials, namely China, Mexico, South Africa and Vietnam. The four programmes focus on decoupling the countries’ carbon emissions from their economic growth by reforming their energy sectors towards more renewable energy and increased energy efficiency. The four programmes were launched during the course of 2013 and 2014 as part of the framework under the 2013 Climate Envelop. The programmes are scheduled to be concluded in June 2017. 

With the Copenhagen Accord adopted at COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, developed countries committed to provide 30 billion USD for the period 2010-2012 for developing countries. The financing should work as start-up funding for their climate adaptation, mitigation actions, capacity building, technological transfer and forest protection. Denmark has since 2010 provided 2 billion DKK in funding under the Danish Climate Envelope to fight climate change. The financial contribution from Denmark to the programme in China was 100 million DKK from  2012-2014.

From January 2015, CNREC has reached an agreement with the British Children’s Investment Fund Foundation for support from 2015-2019. The investment from the British charity in CNREC is technically supported by DEA and the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory within the Boosting Renewable Energy as part of China’s Energy Revolution Programme.

The Danish-Chinese Cooperation


Anders Brix Thomsen
Advisor (+45) 3392 6689