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Walking the Green Energy Talk

May 28, 2019

Promoting the use of green energy is not just Anna Hilden’s passion, but also her job as Global Industry Manager for Offshore Wind at StormGeo. Based in Ringkøbing Denmark, Hilden sat down with us to discuss her thoughts on the overall state of the planet, what she’s up to in her local community, and the steps she’s taken to reduce her own carbon footprint.

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Anna Hilden charging her Electric Vehicle

When did you first become motivated to lead a more sustainable life?

I’ve been aware of the changes to our planet since a teacher told us about global warming in the early 1980s — long before it became a trending topic. But it wasn’t until 2010 that I realized my husband and I needed to make some changes. When we needed to replace our gas-fired heating system, I decided we wouldn’t get another one in an effort to move away from fossil fuels. So we got a pump that pulls heat from the ground. A few years later, we were advised that our old diesel car should be corrosion protected, and I decided to get rid of it and buy an electric vehicle (EV).

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Hilden speaking at a panel debate on EVs

Then you joined the Danish EV Association?

Yes. After becoming a member, I moved up as a board member and recently Chairman of the Board. We are a consumer organization in Denmark for people interested in EVs, currently with about 800 members. We’re very active in promoting the use of EVs and helping consumers in a way that commercial actors can’t because we’re neutral. It's 95% voluntary work.

Are you a part of any other groups that promote the use of green energy?

I’m a member of the Energy Council of my local municipality. This is a knowledgeable backing group for members of the town council. We’re all local people from different sectors with different competencies. As head of the Danish EV Alliance, I represent transport. The town has an energy plan, which is now being renewed, and one of my responsibilities is to ensure transportation is taken into account in that plan.

Tell me more about changes you’ve made to reduce your own carbon footprint.

A few years ago, I started thinking about cutting down on meat. My husband and I aren’t vegetarian, but we have cut down on our intake of meat considerably. When we do eat meat, it’s often game—that is, animals who have not been raised specifically to feed people. We don’t get a kick out of buying new furniture or clothes so it’s not a change for us to keep our consumption low.

Our next move will be to limit our use of air transport. Of course, I fly for business, but I see what I do for a living with StormGeo as making a small contribution to increasing and improving renewable energy in the world. This summer we’re driving to Italy in our EV. Last summer we went to Canada and I still have a bad conscience about taking such a long flight for pleasure. There will be a lot less of that in our future by utilizing trains, EV and local travel. I’m also gradually moving my pension savings to investments that are sustainable, like funds in companies working in clean energy or those that work in a sustainable manner.

What would you say to people who feel depressed about the future of our planet?

You can’t be responsible for what the whole globe does, but you can be responsible for what you do and for the politicians you choose. Most people can easily cut down their emissions by 20–30%. Make sure your transportation habits are as sustainable as possible, that your house doesn’t leak too much heat; look at the food you eat, and think about what you buy. How many items of clothing do you really need?

What do you think can be done on the political level?

A lot needs to be done at the political level, especially internationally. One country going solo is not the most effective or efficient. In Europe we have the EU, which takes a lot of initiative and has a lot to say about the climate and pollution, as well as avoiding harmful chemicals in goods. I hope this will strengthen in the future. Denmark is a wealthy country with a lot of surrounding water, so we can build dykes and dams to keep water away and we can improve our agricultural systems. The rich countries can cope with climate change and adapt their lifestyles but developing countries don’t have the resources needed for these kinds of changes. There is a tendency for some politicians in Denmark to say, yes, we should act, but we can wait because there are technological solutions in the works. But what they are really thinking is that we in Denmark are better off than so many other countries so we don’t need to act now.

You can’t be responsible for what the whole globe does, but you can be responsible for what you do and for the politicians you choose. Most people can easily cut down their emissions by 20–30%.

How do you feel about the future?

I feel quite sad about the future of our planet. I love nature. It’s sad to hear about the ocean heating up by one degree, knowing that has a huge impact on marine life. It also likely increases the number of extreme weather events. Both for the environment and people, we’re heading towards a scary future. I’m sorry for the environment because it can’t protect itself, it’s dependent on humans. But I’m also sorry for people who live in countries where they can’t protect themselves against climate change.

Is there hope?

Well, we have to take drastic action now. We all have to change our lifestyles, and the faster we do it, the better. We do have to believe and invest in technology, but technology does not have all the answers. We have to take serious responsibility of our impacts on the environment, the planet and less privileged people.

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What do you think the future hold in regards to renewables?

I do think we will be 100% renewable in the future. The energy sector has a good track record when it comes to emissions. The transport, heating and food industries are much worse. In Denmark, the wind energy production corresponds to about 40% of our consumption, and there’s a path towards becoming independent of fossil fuels in all sectors by 2050. So the energy sector will be the first to make that transition, while the other sectors will go more slowly.

What role can the private sector play?

Business can do a lot. That’s actually where I don’t feel pessimistic. Many companies, including StormGeo, are taking steps to act more responsibly. There are even new businesses that profit from these more sustainable movements. Companies are making good business out of embracing environmental challenges. For example, there’s a printing company here in Denmark that uses compostable paper and biodegradable, edible ink. They are still in business precisely because they have made that move. These types of changes come about from a corporate and consumer movement towards wanting to do the right thing. I think that’s very positive. Sometimes companies go further than the politicians because they can act without having to ask so many people. In some cases, I think business can actually lead the way.