May 26, 2009
An island converts to local renewables, including targets for energy efficiency.
Summary of the case
A small Danish island Samsø won the contest to be “Denmark’s Renewable Energy Island” in 1997. It meant that Samsø would be expected to convert all its energy supply to 100% renew-able energy within 10 years. The means to achieve this included: Cuts in consumption and increased efficiency in terms of heat, electricity and transport; Expansion of the district heat-ing supply systems combined with utilization of local biomass resources; Expansion of indi-vidual heating systems using heat pumps, solar heating, biomass-plants and other means; Construction of land-based and offshore wind power plants to cover electricity production.
The programme was very ambitious, because it tried to change the energy production and consumption of a whole island within a decade. Before the project started, Samsø didn’t have any conventional energy resources of its own. All fossil fuel had to be transported by tankers, and electricity by connecting to the mainland grids.
A large network of different actors evolved to support the project. In addition to the RE island project personnel, also private citizens of Samsø, Samsø municipality, Danish Government, and local and external business took part in the project. An energy plan, that investigated the available resources and made a rough time schedule to the project, was made by PlanEnergi, an independent consultancy firm specialising in renewable energy, environment, sustainable systems, energy planning and technology transfer. The plan was used as a guideline through the project.
At first, the citizens were invited to participate in work groups for the planning and develop-ment work. In these meetings the citizens were given information about the costs, payback time, possible technological solutions etc. Local citizens were also involved in choosing the technologies that were going to be used in the project. Later in the project, they also made financial investments to these technologies.
The project conducted several campaigns that aimed to give knowledge and practical abilities to local citizens to save energy and get acquainted with renewable energy technology. These campaigns included education and certification of local entrepreneurs, house calls by energy advisors, and energy saving campaigns.
Overall, the renewable energy island project must be deemed almost completely successful, because it fulfilled most of the goals that were set. The primary objective - 100% self-suffiency with renewable energy using local resources - has been achieved in 8 years, two years ahead of time. Other accomplishments include three new district heating plants that were built and 10 offshore and 11 onshore wind turbines that were established. The project was less successful in the transportation sector and in behavioural changes that the project aimed at.
The results of the project are communicated both to the local populace and the world at large. Local media have been used extensively, both to inform and mobilize participation in differ-ent activities, as well as to give status reports about the progress of the project. The results are broadly presented also in international media coverage. The success of the project can also be seen in growing interest of renewable energy tourism. Samsø Energy Academy, that was opened in 2007, is now the basis for renewable energy research, education and training.