Denmark's Corporate Sector Just Sold Off Its Last Oil Company

The country is aggressively transitioning to wind power. But that doesn't mean the oil is going away.

REYKJAVIK, Iceland ― Denmark’s biggest company is selling off the country’s last oil firm as the world’s top wind turbine-producing nation transitions to renewable energy.

Last month, A.P. Moller-Maersk, the famed industrial and shipping conglomerate, agreed to sell its oil and gas division to French giant Total. Pending regulatory approval, the $7.45 billion deal is expected to close by next year, Bloomberg reported.

The move comes three months after Dong Energy, the Danish firm that’s spearheading offshore wind development in the United States and across Europe, sold its oil and gas business to a German buyer for $1.3 billion.

The Nordic nation still needs revenues from its North Sea oil fields to fund its transition to clean energy, and Total promised to do so. But Denmark has pledged to completely wean itself off fossil fuels by 2050.

“By selling to Total, we ensure a continued Danish stronghold in the North Sea based on Maersk Oil’s leading position within technology development and its track record as a lean, efficient and trusted partner,” Claus V. Hemmingsen, Maersk’s vice chief executive, said in a statement. “Importantly, Maersk Oil will remain close to its technology and innovation partners at the Danish technical institutions and in the oil and gas service industry to the benefit of all parties.”

Scandinavian countries are taking aggressive steps to reduce carbon emissions from their electricity sectors, despite some nations’ long reliance on fossil fuel revenues. Sweden produced 57 percent of its power from renewables in 2015, and aims to bring that number to 100 percent by 2040. Norway, whose state-owned Statoil fuels a massive sovereign wealth fund, is investing heavily in offshore wind, including off the coast of New York. Iceland, a volcanic island with plentiful water resources, gets 100 percent of its energy from geothermal and hydropower.

Offshore wind is soaring in Europe and East Asia, though it has been slow to take off in the United States.
Offshore wind is soaring in Europe and East Asia, though it has been slow to take off in the United States.

Yet revenues from the North Sea oil help finance around 1 gigawatt of new offshore wind infrastructure each year, according to data from a recent deal in Norway cited by Bloomberg Intelligence. That’s equal to the power used by about 170,000 homes.

Offshore wind is soaring in Europe. The industry will provide 17,575 megawatts worldwide this year, with 14,740 megawatts in Europe and 2,805 in Asia, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance data provided to HuffPost. But it has failed to take off in North America, where a meager 30 megawatts come from a tiny, five-turbine operation off the coast of Block Island.

The U.S. generates about 15 percent of its electricity from renewable energy, relying instead on natural gas and coal. Just 5.6 percent of that came from wind. Offshore wind, however, holds vast promise for the country. Wind blows so strongly and reliably off U.S. coasts that it could generate 4,223 gigawatts of electricity ― four times the power that’s currently produced by all sources in the country, according to a 2012 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

CLARIFICATION: The headline and some language in this article was updated to make clear that Maersk is a private company.

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