Green City: Copenhagen, Denmark

Green City Copenhagen Denmark
Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen

Renewable Energy in Denmark and Copenhagen


Nyhavn Harbor Copenhagen
Nyhavn Harbor, Copenhagen

Denmark and Copenhagen have a substantial quantity of renewable energy sources (over half of their electricity is derived from renewables), mostly from their two main sources of renewables - wind farms and biomass (as well as from relatively smaller shares of solar and other renewable energy sources).

Denmark also has an ambitious climate policy -

"Electricity derived from renewable energy has reached 67 percent of [Denmark's] electricity supply (wind energy contributes 46.8 percent while biomass contributes 11.2 percent). The Danish Parliament passed the Climate Act in 2020, which set a target to reduce Denmark’s greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent in 2030 (from a 1990 baseline) and climate neutrality by 2050.

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Green City Copenhagen Denmark
Middelgrunden Offshore Wind Farm

Copenhagen gets the majority of its electricity from both onshore and offshore wind energy (such as the Middelgrunden Offshore Wind Farm, pictured here). Copenhagen also gets energy from shares of biomass (including waste-to-energy systems) and solar (solar photovoltaics and solar thermal).

Green City Copenhagen Denmark
Copenhagen International School

Copenhagen International School features the largest solar facade developed for a building in the world (as of the time it was developed). The school also has many energy-efficiency technologies and passive building features.

Renewable energy helps to provide energy for around 100 district heating networks supplying heat to various municipalities in Denmark, including Copenhagen (at this point, Copenhagen predominantly uses energy from carbon-neutral sources).

Green City Copenhagen Denmark
Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen's district heating is mostly sourced from biomass combusted in cogeneration plants (these are also known as combined heat and power plants - CHP plants).

Copenhagen's cogeneration plants use biomass and waste-to-energy for fuel, along with a small share of a conventional CHP source (natural gas); with more carbon-neutral renewable sources for the city's CHP plants now coming online.

Copenhagen has one of the world's largest and cleanest CHP waste-to-energy plants (converting about 400,000 tons of municipal waste to energy annually); CopenHill. CopenHill even has an artificial ski slope for its rooftop, a tree-lined hiking trail, and an 85-meter climbing wall on its longest vertical facade.

Copenhagen Denmark
Copenhagen, Denmark

The district heating network in Greater Copenhagen is the world's largest integrated district heating system. The Copenhagen district heating network is soon to be entirely carbon-neutral -

"The Danish capital has the world's largest district heating network. The system serves 98% of Copenhagen’s buildings. Over a 15-year period ending in 2025, the Greater Copenhagen Utility (HOFOR) will make the system carbon-neutral by transitioning from coal, oil, and natural gas to sustainable biomass.

To produce carbon-neutral heating, HOFOR will replace fossil fuels at large combined heat and power (CHP) plants with wood pellets from sustainably grown forests. It will also deploy large-scale heat pumps that run on wind energy and geothermal energy and incorporate heat storage provided by large water tanks."

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Copenhagen's Climate Plan and Green Initiatives


Summersunsetinnyhavencopenhagendenmark 2
Nyhavn Harbor, Copenhagen

Copenhagen's Climate Plan objectives include: achieving 100% renewable energy (100RE) citywide, implementing enhanced energy efficiency measures throughout multiple sectors of the city, ensuring the city's environment is as clean as possible, and green transit/ mobility goals - including investing in sustainable transit.  

Copenhagen has one of the largest cogeneration systems in the world - producing both electricity for Copenhagen and keeping buildings warm with district heating.

Green City Copenhagen Denmark
Nyhavn Harbor

In addition to the extensive district heating network in Copenhagen, water from the city harbor is utilized to cool various buildings in the city when needed, such as office buildings, hotels, and department stores.

The insulated pipes that deliver chilled harbor water to buildings for cooling are either built using new pipe networks or built along with the same pipe networks that deliver steam for the district heating system.

Copenhagen requires all new buildings to conform to green building standards, including zero-emission construction sites, in striving to reduce energy consumption for all building operations.

Copenhagen's Climate Plan also entails strategic implementation by having the city government lead first in all sustainability goals.

Skyline Of Copenhagen
Copenhagen, Denmark

For example, the Climate Plan has the city administration leading in adopting low and zero-carbon transit (vehicles using electricity, biofuels, or hydrogen).

Although not a large share of Copenhagen's carbon footprint is addressed by the city administration leading first in low-carbon measures (around 5% of the city's carbon footprint is addressed), a huge amount of inspiration to meet sustainability goals is shared with the city.

Renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable clean transit, and green buildings are means for Copenhagen to achieve the goals of the Climate Plan and the fossil fuel-free goal, as is a phase-out of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

Pedestrian Only Zone In Copenhagen
Pedestrian-only zone in Copenhagen

In Copenhagen, cycling, pedestrian, and zero-emission mass transit zones on certain roads are already in place, and the city announced a citywide ICE ban in 2017, with a target year of 2030.

One goal of Copenhagen's Climate Plan is to have 75% of all trips in the city done by bike, by foot, or by public transit.

Cycling already accounts for about half of the travel to work or school within Copenhagen, and the city is known as one of the world's most bike-friendly cities. The City of Copenhagen is making efforts to ensure that most travel in the city is sustainable [read more about the city's efforts below - in the Sustainable Transit in Copenhagen section].

In 1973, Denmark became the first country in the world to implement an environmental law, and since then, the environment has become one of the main priorities of city planning in the country.

Denmark's Energy Policy Agreement was signed into law in 2012, and in the newest version of the Agreement, Denmark has committed to 100RE for all electricity in the country by 2030, and 100RE overall by 2050.

Additionally, The Danish Climate Act has set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 70% in Denmark as a whole by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels). Denmark's net zero goal is set for 2050. The country of Denmark aims to achieve 100% renewable heat and power by 2030 and to become completely fossil fuel-free (including all transportation and industry) by 2050.

Denmark has also proposed to ban, for the entire country, the sale of new diesel and gas vehicles from 2030 on, in an effort to promote electric vehicles.

Sustainable Transit in Copenhagen


Copenhagen already has a substantial amount of green transit infrastructure in place.

Green City Copenhagen Denmark
Copenhagen Airport

The city’s rail, airport, and suburbs are connected to the city center via the metro bus system. The bus fleet in Copenhagen is being converted to run using biofuel and biogas (another use of waste-to-energy), in addition to electric and electric-hybrid buses.

The city of Copenhagen aims to replace its diesel-fueled buses with electric buses by 2025.

In the future, Copenhagen might be home to hydrogen fuel cell buses. Denmark is getting 200 hydrogen buses as part of the EU's big push for hydrogen buses, the H2BusEurope program.

Green City Copenhagen Denmark
Copenhagen Metro

The city also features the Copenhagen Metro (an electric light rail rapid transit system) and the Copenhagen S-train (an electric hybrid urban-suburban commuter rail system).

The Copenhagen Metro features small, sustainable, fully autonomous trains that transport over a million passengers/per week. With over 80 stations throughout the Greater Copenhagen area, the S-train has over 100 million passengers/per year.

Adding to the city's rapid transit services (Copenhagen Metro and S-train), the Greater Copenhagen Light Rail is an electric tram system that's still under development (projected to open in 2025 with 29 stations over 28 kilometers).

Copenhagen harbor has ferries that, in addition to several destinations both local and abroad, bring travelers to and from cities in Scandinavia such as Oslo, Norway.

Green City Copenhagen Denmark
Fully electric ferry in Copenhagen

A few of Copenhagen's ferries are zero-emissions electric vessels. Copenhagen's electric ferries help to keep the city's air and harbor waters clean.

Copenhagen plans to electrify all of the ferries in its harbor ferry fleet, which carries about 700,000 passengers annually.

City officials in Copenhagen are trying to expand public and mass transport systems in Copenhagen and at the same time promote the use of bicycles as a means of traveling from one place to another.

Bikes outnumber cars in Copenhagen, and currently about ½ of all trips within the city to work or universities are done on bicycles. Cycling is already as popular as car use in Copenhagen [as seen in this article in The Guardian], but Copenhagen sees cycling as becoming the dominant form of transit within the city.

The city provides safe bike lanes that are separated from road traffic.

Copenhagen enhances the cycling experience by separating cycling tracks from both car traffic and pedestrians with a simple curb, even elevating the dedicated, uni-directional cycling tracks in segments of the over 250 miles of Copenhagen's bike lanes.

Copenhagen has installed green wave traffic lights (traffic lights that are synchronized to maximize the efficiency of bicyclists) and constructed new bike lanes, as well as improved current ones.

Other traffic calming measures throughout the city include slow-speed zones (with very low speed limits in much of the city), while the placement of speed bumps and traffic signs on the city's roads promotes safety. Copenhagen has mandated a ban on ICE vehicles in certain parts of the city center, creating pedestrian-only zones

Copenhagen Public-Private Green Initiatives


Copenhagen has several public-private partnerships that have helped with its sustainable employment and eco-innovation. The city works with universities, organizations, and companies to develop and improve green growth.

Green City Copenhagen Denmark
Copenhagen Harbor in front of the Gemini Residence

During the past decade, the city invested in making the Copenhagen harbor area as clean as possible.

Cleaning the harbor has allowed Copenhagen to create jobs, generate revenue, and improve local business life. Today, people can swim in the harbor, which has crystal clear clean water.

Green City Copenhagen Denmark
Amager Beach, Copenhagen

Aside from the swimming spots in the harbor, Copenhagen has various beaches, which are kept clean and maintained for the community. Near the city, beaches include the white sands of Amager Beach; as well as the popular beaches of Hellerup Strand and Bellevue Strand.

A clean harbor, clean beaches, and a thriving community around Copenhagen Harbor are examples of some of the benefits that the city has created through its sustainable initiatives.

Part of the success that Copenhagen is experiencing in terms of its green campaigns is due to the fact that city officials engage their residents and local businesses.

The city of Copenhagen and private businesses in Copenhagen have teamed up to offer public green programs such as tax incentives, rebates, and discounts when buying electric vehicles, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids and financial incentives to recycle plastic bottles.

Copenhagen was voted as Europe’s Green Capital in 2014 by the European Environment Commission. The city is known as a world leader when it comes to clean technology, sustainable buildings, and clean businesses.

Around ¼ of Copenhagen is made up of green spaces, open spaces, lakes, coasts, and parks; such as Tivoli Gardens.

Green City Copenhagen Denmark
Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen [from]

Copenhagen's Waste Management Programs


Copenhagen Denmark

One particularly innovative citywide measure in Copenhagen involves the creation of biogas from household waste and sewage throughout Copenhagen - waste-to-energy.

The waste-to-energy process takes a few steps. First, Copenhagen’s municipal sewage treatment plants separate biomass fluids, with the potential to create biogas, from household wastewater.

Next, the plants treat this potential renewable energy source; separating potential biogas material sources, and filtering the sewage to remove ammonia, sulfides, and other toxic elements.

Then, the biomass sources left over are converted entirely to a usable gas form (methane) through gasification or anaerobic digestion and are mixed with other biogas or natural gas to produce gas for the city.

A substantial amount of building heating in Copenhagen uses this renewable energy biogas source, in addition to other uses, like mass transit (buses) and heat for cooking.

Here is information from about Copenhagen's waste-to-energy programs, recycling, and other waste management programs:

"Circular Copenhagen – Resource and Waste Plan 2024 (RAP24) adresses municipal waste from households and light industry waste. The target of the plan is to recycle 70% of the municipal waste by 2024. This will amount to a reduction of 59,000 tons of CO2 per year. Recycling must triple in municipal reuse facilities in order to achieve this goal.

The City of Copenhagen aims to be the world’s first carbon neutral capital by 2025 and the initiatives in RAP24 support this vision. Another motivating factor is to see Copenhagen become a leader in circular economics.

What are the innovative aspects and the climate mitigation and adaptation goals?

The plan contains a number of concrete initiatives, which are iterated along six themes:

1. Initiating waste sorting information campaigns, which aims to improve collection of household waste for recycling by 14% (approx 8,025 tons CO2 reduction). Specifically, Copenhageners will be source separating their household waste into multiple fractions. These will be the following:





Bio Waste

Glass, bottles and jars

Residual waste



Hazardous waste

Garden waste

Bulky waste/wood

2. Improving waste collection methods and implementing source separation, which aims to further improve collection of household waste by 3% (approx. 2,550 tons CO2 reduction).

3. Stimulating reuse and exchange, which aims to see the city reuse 5,880 tons of waste (approx 240 tons CO2 reduction).

4. Promoting a circular economy, which aims to further improve collection of household waste for recycling by 6% (approx. 3,410 tons CO2 reduction).

5. Improving commercial waste recycling, whichaims to improve collection of commercial waste for recycling by 15%.

6. Integrating new technological solutions for waste treatment, which aims to improve sorting of household waste for recycling by 6% (approx 25,150 tons CO2 reduction)."

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and from State of Green

"Food waste across Copenhagen is now taken to a biogas plant in Solrød instead of the former plant near Slagelse. In addition to the fact that the plant in Solrød is closer to Copenhagen, it is also this plant that enables the biogas to be upgraded and used in the gas network throughout Denmark. The biogas has previously been used for electricity and heat at a local heating plant.

When the gas is collected from the food waste, the rest of the food waste is used as fertilizer, which can then be used on organic fields. The fertilizer contains important nutrients, which are good to send back into nature’s cycle.

Another new initiative is that bio bags are also included in the composting process. This ensures a high real recycling rate of around 97%.

In 2021, 15,000 tonnes of food waste was collected in Copenhagen, which corresponds to the energy consumption of five million hot baths lasting five minutes. It is possible to collect more than twice as much food waste in Copenhagen, and there is therefore great potential.

Copenhagen Municipality has a goal of recycling 70% of Copenhageners’ waste by 2024." 

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For more on offshore wind in Denmark, see:

The Anholt Offshore Wind Farm- Denmark's Most Powerful Source of Renewable Energy

Also see: Fossil Fuel-free Vaxjo, Sweden for more on sustainability efforts in Northern Europe

and Oslo, Norway is Leading the Way in Climate Goals