Tim Roberts | Renewable energy island a community triumph

Community energy projects underlie the success of renewable energy in Denmark. Samsø, a Danish island of about 4000 people, won the national competition to become Denmark’s Renewable Energy Island. 

Over its 10-year life, the Renewable Energy Island Samsø community energy project managed to transform Samsø’s entire energy system from largely fossil-fuel to one based on renewable energy. Following a master plan, the main investments of the project included the implementation of district heating using biomass and solar thermal, energy efficiency in buildings, onshore and offshore wind turbines and individual renewable energy installations such as heat pumps and solar PV. The majority of the investments are owned by local cooperatives, farmers or businesses. As a result of this project, Samsø became a net exporter of electricity offsetting its remaining transport sector reliance on fossil fuels.

The success of the project was in part due to government support including a national energy policy with clear guidelines (e.g. local participation requirements), technology support, and the establishment of information centres to promote use of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Local conditions that helped the project included Samsø’s long experience with local agricultural cooperatives, a strong innovative drive and entrepreneurial ethos, some experience with renewable energy, and an active community and community spirit.

 The project was a true community energy project with broad local participation. Closer to home we are seeing island communities on Kangaroo Island, Rottnest Island and King Island aiming to increase renewable energy generation to offset reliance on imported diesel.

With Alec Roberts, from CLEANaS

Professor Tim Roberts is the director of the Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment, University of Newcastle