In the future, Nature Energy hopes to build major biogas plants in the US, where much waste currently ends up unsorted at landfills.

Photo: Nature Energy
13-06-19 DI Business News

Danish companies create thousands of jobs in the US

It’s good for Denmark when Danish companies are successful abroad, but the success also benefits other countries. Today Denmark is responsible for 123,000 American jobs – and this number could become even higher, given the major demand for green technology in the US, explains Danish company Nature Energy.

Every day around 75,000 Americans show up for work at a Danish company in the US, and an additional 48,000 jobs in the US are tied to American exports to Denmark. Altogether, this means that about 123,000 American jobs depend on the country’s relations to Denmark.

These figures were just released in a new report, “Denmark in the US”, drawn up by the Confederation of Danish Industry in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The report takes stock of Denmark’s business activities in the US.

“From an American perspective, the figures are small, but there is no doubt that Danish companies in the US are growing. Here, entrepreneurship, investment and job creation are highly valued,” says Louis Funder, head of DI’s US office.

Danish companies in the US are particularly strong in areas such as pharmaceuticals and healthcare, food, energy and environment. Not least in the so-called cleantech sector do Danish companies hold a special position.

Here, Denmark is at the forefront and has some major trendsetting companies – and Americans are very aware of this. In many states there is a political drive to move in a greener direction, despite the rather different signal currently being sent from the top. Louis Funder, head of DI’s US office

“Here, Denmark is at the forefront and has some major trendsetting companies – and Americans are very aware of this. In many states there is a political drive to move in a greener direction, despite the rather different signal currently being sent from the top,” says Louis Funder.


See also: Danish companies teach Mexico about the power of the sun

Nature Energy is testing out opportunities

The Danish wind power industry is already well-established in the US, while other green energy forms have also begun to gain ground in the enormous American market. This is good news for Danish companies such as Nature Energy, which produces major biogas plants that can lead gas directly into the gas grid, thereby decreasing reliance on carbon-emitting natural gas.

“In the long run, we cannot live off selling our solutions in Denmark alone, because the market is so small and because research and product development in an area like ours is so expensive,” explains Trine Dalsgaard, Director for Business Development at Nature Energy.

The company has therefore started looking into business opportunities in the US, where the gas infrastructure is already developed and there is plenty of waste from sources such as food manufacturing and animal husbandry that is suitable for biogas production.

See also: Four out of ten Danes want a greener car

Waste is just driven to the landfill

“Waste management in the US is very different than what we’re used to in Denmark. In America, an enormous amount of waste simply ends up in landfills, where it is left unsorted as it creates methane. This can seem rather absurd from a Danish perspective,” says Trine Dalsgaard.

Some of the gas from the landfills is gathered into primitive biogas plants that simply catch the gas that happens to be generated in the waste masses. Meanwhile, the waste takes up space and poses a risk to the surrounding water environment.

“Plants such as ours can significantly professionalise the production of biogas, but naturally this requires some initial investments. Meanwhile, the result is also very different if you filter out biodegradable waste and put it into tanks in which the processes can be monitored and optimised, as is the case in big, professional plants,” says Trine Dalsgaard.

Right now, Nature Energy is looking for the right projects to start up with. And Trine Dalsgaard also expects that it will take a few years before the company manages to get its first biogas plant up and running in the US.

Last year, the US was responsible for 30 per cent of global investments in biogas, so we believe that it’s possible. The interest is there, and the market is there. But it also needs to happen at a pace where we can keep up. Trine Dalsgaard, Director for Business Development at Nature Energy

The company has therefore started looking into business opportunities in the US, where the gas infrastructure is already developed and there is plenty of waste from sources such as food manufacturing and animal husbandry that is suitable for biogas production.

See also: New figures: Danish manufacturing defies global headwinds

Waste is just driven to the landfill

“Waste management in the US is very different than what we’re used to in Denmark. In America, an enormous amount of waste simply ends up in landfills, where it is left unsorted as it creates methane. This can seem rather absurd from a Danish perspective,” says Trine Dalsgaard.

Some of the gas from the landfills is gathered into primitive biogas plants that simply catch the gas that happens to be generated in the waste masses. Meanwhile, the waste takes up space and poses a risk to the surrounding water environment.

“Plants such as ours can significantly professionalise the production of biogas, but naturally this requires some initial investments. Meanwhile, the result is also very different if you filter out biodegradable waste and put it into tanks in which the processes can be monitored and optimised, as is the case in big, professional plants,” says Trine Dalsgaard.

Right now, Nature Energy is looking for the right projects to start up with. And Trine Dalsgaard also expects that it will take a few years before the company manages to get its first biogas plant up and running in the US.

“Last year, the US was responsible for 30 per cent of global investments in biogas, so we believe that it’s possible. The interest is there, and the market is there. But it also needs to happen at a pace where we can keep up,” says Trine Dalsgaard.

See also: New record: Exports create jobs for 825,000 Danes

Filter out the noise and take advantage of the opportunities

Generally, there are plenty of business opportunities for Danish companies in the US, says Louis Funder from DI’s US office.

“The American economy is doing well, unemployment is low, consumer confidence is high and companies are optimistic about the future. For Danish companies, this is also a market that is relatively easy to access – especially compared to other markets outside Europe. It’s easy to set up companies in the US, and investments are usually welcome, just as there are very few linguistic and cultural barriers,” he says.

That is worth keeping in mind before being scared off by the daily news reports of trade wars and tariffs.

“Those things are obviously also part of the current reality, as we’re now seeing with Trump’s threat of punitive tariffs on European products in the wake of the Airbus affair. And of course, Danish companies could also run into other obstacles. But it is my impression that most Danish companies are quite good at filtering out the noise, navigating through stormy waters and focusing on the many opportunities,” notes Louis Funder.

Trade relations between Denmark and the US also create jobs in Denmark. More than 100,000 Danes are either employed in American companies in Denmark or in companies dependent on Danish exports to the US. The US is Denmark’s most important export market outside the EU.

Louis Funder

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