November 07, 2023

“Mr Energy” praises openness in Esbjerg


Got a question?

Karin rix hollander

Karin Rix Holländer

Executive Assistant MA

Openness helps to ensure a faster and better route to the green transition. This is the view of Australia’s former chief scientist, Alan Finkel, who recently visited Port Esbjerg and various companies nearby. In fact, Finkel felt that openness, commitment and honesty were exactly the qualities he encountered on his trip to Denmark. He believes that Denmark and Australia will find ways of doing business together, despite the great geographical distance.

Australia’s “Mr Energy” has just visited Denmark’s energy metropolis, Esbjerg, where he was impressed by the openness on display at Port Esbjerg, as people were willingly sharing their experiences with the green transition.  He believes that openness will ensure a faster and better route to the green transition.

The moniker is highly appropriate. His real name is Alan Finkel, and he is an Australian neuroscientist, inventor, engineer, entrepreneur, educator, political adviser and philanthropist. 

He was Australia’s chief scientist from 2016 to 2020 and is a former president of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. He was CEO and founder of Axon Instruments, and CTO of electric car startup Better Place Australia. He has been a special adviser to the Australian government on low emissions technologies, chair of Australia’s Low Emissions Technology Investment Advisory Council – to name but a few of his credentials.

Alan Finkel web

Alan Finkel, which is the real name of ‘Mr. Energy’, is an Australian neuroscientist, inventor, engineer, entrepreneur, educator, political adviser and philanthropist.

Overwhelming commitment even though ‘everything is expensive and nothing is easy’

Finkel has officially retired, but he does not pay too much attention to that. He therefore accepted the Danish government’s invitation to visit Denmark to get an insight into the green transition. This included a visit to Port Esbjerg, where work is in full swing to achieve both Denmark’s and Europe’s green goals.

“Denmark is an inspiration to other countries. I’m also aware that many government delegations have come here to be inspired. In Esbjerg, companies have shared knowledge with me that shows that they’re more focused on achieving the green transition than a narrow business case. For that, I take my hat off to them. I believe that Denmark and Australia can collaborate much more closely in this area going forward,” he says.

In addition to the harbour itself, Finkel also visited Maersk’s training facilities at Port Esbjerg and experienced great openness and willingness to talk. An openness which he believes is significant.

“I feel very grateful. It’s been overwhelming to experience the commitment that exists at the port and in the companies in relation to achieving the goals of the green transition, and to experience the honesty and desire for collaboration,” says Finkel.

He brings home ‘significant’ lessons which he will also share with the Australian government. One of them is that ‘everything is expensive and nothing is easy’ – but that in Denmark, we do it, even though it isn’t easy.

“You just do it. It’s fascinating,” he says and continues:

“There’s huge commitment and a desire for change in this country that we may not have at quite the same level in Australia. Here, you’ve got wind turbines 200 metres from a farm and, at the same time, far out at sea. You’re way ahead.”

He tells about Australia’s experience with ‘fly in and fly out’ in the mining industry, where the mines are often located in very remote places. In Denmark, the wind industry runs similar crew schemes, except crew members sail to and from work. Finkel finds that really inspiring.

“It requires huge investments to start up the offshore wind industry, but then it can also run very efficiently,” he says.


"Wind turbines have their own beauty,” says Finkel.

Wind turbines have their own beauty

Another lesson is how specialised the offshore wind industry has become in Europe. A large number of vessels are built specifically for offshore wind projects, capable of loading nacelles, blades and the like; and maintenance is also carried out by specialised vessels.

In Australia, there is a debate about wind turbines ruining the view from the coast and potentially harming wildlife. This is a debate that we are also familiar with in Denmark.

"But wind turbines have their own beauty,” says Finkel, who believes that the Horns Rev wind farm 14 kilometres off the coast shows off the green transition in a beautiful way.

Mr Energy meets Mr Wind Power

In Denmark, Finkel also met with Denmark’s Mr Wind Power, Henrik Stiesdal, who is regarded as the most influential Danish wind-turbine pioneer.

The two men discussed floating wind turbines and wind turbine plants at ports, among other things.

“Stiesdal is a superstar in this field, so it was very inspiring to talk to him,” says Finkel, who knew Stiesdal from a previous meeting in India.

Mr Energy og Mr windpower

In Denmark, Finkel also met with Denmark’s Mr Wind Power, Henrik Stiesdal. Here photographed at a previous meeting between the two in India.

The greatest economic challenge of all time

Finkel believes that the transition to clean energy is humanity’s greatest economic challenge of all time. In his book Powering Up, published in June this year, Finkel outlines the processes required for nations to undergo the historic shift from petrostates to electrostates.

Addressing the entire supply chain – from raw materials and energy infrastructure to the workforce and transport – Finkel reveals the outlines of a new geo-economic order and explains how we can get there.

“If governments, investors, the industry and consumers succeed in implementing the electrification over the next three decades, history will hail us as the generation that ushered in the electric age and helped save the planet,” he says. 

That is why he is so committed to it, and why he accepted the invitation to visit Denmark, because he believes there is a sound basis for collaboration between the two countries to support this process.

Many solar panels, few wind turbines

Australia reigns supreme in the world in terms of solar electricity generation per person.

“We’re ahead on solar, but behind on wind. We need to bring that into a better balance. And so far, we only have onshore wind turbines,” he says.

According to Finkel, this is partly because regulatory challenges have delayed the offshore wind process. However, now the path has been cleared for laying cables from the sea to the coast, among other things.

“It’s got things moving, but we’ve got many challenges, not least getting an international supply chain up and running. It’s full of complexities,” he says.

He explains that this is another reason why the visit to Denmark is so relevant.

Australia as a global leader

The Australian government has set a target that by 2030, 82 per cent of its energy consumption must be green, which – according to Finkel – will be difficult to achieve, but they are throwing everything at it.

“Australia has a lot of natural resources that can support the transition,” he says, emphasising that work is being done around the clock to achieve the target, but progress is too slow.

“Things are moving slower than we hoped, but we see changes every day taking us in the right direction,” he says, stressing again the opportunities that lie in collaboration.

Go to overview