100% RENEWABLE ENERGY ISLAND – SAMSØ ISLAND, DENMARK
In 2007, Samsø’s inhabitants were able to declare their island 100% energy self-sufficient based on wind, solar and biomass energy; an achievement that was largely due to wide support and investments. For instance, a great number of Samsø’s inhabitants have replaced their oil-burners and have insulated their houses, and joint local forces support the island’s district heating plant.
That year, the island won a competition sponsored by the Danish ministry of environment and energy that was looking for a showcase community – one that could prove the country’s freshly announced Kyoto target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 21% was, in fact, achievable.
The contest didn’t bring with it funds to bankroll the energy transition. But it did pay for the salary of one person tasked with making the island’s 10-year renewables master plan a reality. That person was Søren Hermansen, a Samsø native vegetable farmer–turned–environmental teacher. Hermansen has wielded his pragmatic, roll-up-your-sleeves attitude to great effect over the past two decades, turning his own rural community into a green powerhouse, and evangelising to communities around the world that they, too, can make the transition.
“It was not an overnight process,” says Hermansen, who heads the Samsø Energy and Environment Organisation, and is chief executive of the Samsø Energy Academy. Samsø residents can now boast a carbon footprint of negative 12 tonnes per person per year, compared with a Danish average of 6.2 tonnes and 17 tonnes in Australia in 2015.
One of the key projects right now is a plan to make Samsø completely independent of fossil fuels before 2030. This project includes goals for the reduction of local electricity and heat consumption and for all transport on, to and from the island to take place with electricity or biofuel as propellants.