Photo: Colourbox

Fossil-free future within reach

Tuesday 17 Mar 15
by Iben Julie Schmidt


Henrik Madsen
Professor, Head of section
DTU Compute
+45 45 25 34 08
Is it realistic to envisage large Danish towns and cities running exclusively on sustainable energy in 2025? Yes it is, according to a DTU researcher.

Denmark is to be completely fossil-free by 2050 according to the country’s long-term climate policy target. As a result, a number of Danish cities and local authorities are currently trying to outdo one another in setting ambitious green goals. Thus, Copenhagen is committed to operating exclusively on sustainable energy in 2025. But what will it take to achieve this? Professor Henrik Madsen from DTU Compute has the answer.

“From a technological perspective, it’s not as difficult as you may think,” he says, with a fair degree of optimism. What is required, however, is the capacity to think outside the box and apply new, intelligent technologies to interconnections in the energy sector. This is precisely the purpose of a major research project entitled CITIES— short for ‘Centre for IT-intelligent Energy Systems in Cities’—and led by Henrik Madsen. Even though the six-year research project has only been running for a year so far, Professor Madsen has good reason to be optimistic.

Photo: DTU "We have already demonstrated that it is possible to supply the whole of Denmark exclusively with sustainable energy. For several days last January, wind energy covered up to 120 per cent of Denmark’s total electricity consumption. Of course, there is still a long way to go before we can ensure the supply of sustainable energy all year round, but it is definitely possible,” explains the Professor.

Decentralization on the way
The challenge will be to link up all the small, decentralized units that will supply the energy we require in the future, taking over from the small number of large and centralized providers that distinguish the sector today. A major part of the solution is to be found in an IT-related utilization of the ever-increasing volume of data available thanks to more modern technologies, in a new and intelligent form of planning and management. “The focus of CITIES is on towns and cities, because these urban areas already have much of the infrastructure and complexities that will come to distinguish the coherent energy solutions of the future. However, the systems and the mathematical models we create must, in principle, be able to encompass and integrate information at all levels: from the washing machine in the user’s home to national or continental energy planning, optimization and management,” explains Professor Henrik Madsen.

New technologies
This is where the mathematics starts to become seriously complicated, but advanced algorithms and mathematical models involving multiple types of data are very much DTU Compute’s area of expertise. And the CITIES research project also involves a wide range of companies that are to help develop the new technologies such as Smart Meters—which, via regular measurements in the residence, provide important data about energy consumption and requirements—or new mobile phone apps that can provide users with tips and hints for how to save energy.

“CITIES will not only bring us closer to a fossil fuel-free future, it will inevitably result in the development of all kinds of new technologies and intelligent solutions that may become important export goods for Denmark,” adds Professor Madsen.

Article in DTUavisen no. 3, March 2015.

Facts about CITIES

CITIES is short for ‘Centre for IT-intelligent Energy Systems in Cities’. The purpose of the project is to establish and operate an integrated research centre that covers all aspects of the energy system, and functions as a developer of intelligent IT solutions for the Smart Cities of tomorrow.

The project is financed by the Danish Council for Strategic Research, starting in early 2014 and scheduled to finish at the end of 2019. The project takes the form of a partnership involving a wide range of international players from the university environment, industry and both public and private sections of the energy sector. 

Read more about the project at