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2007: Energy Academy on an Energy Island

Date interview: March 4 2016
Name interviewer: Morten Elle, Center for Design, Innovation and Sustainable Transition, Department of Development and Planning, Aalborg University, Copenhagen.
Name interviewee: Søren Hermansen (SH), 04-03-2016 + Malene Lundén (ML) 07-04-2016
Position interviewee: SH – farmer and head of Energiakademiet, part of the old Samsoe community, part of ‘the tribe’. ML – photographer and project manager, newcomer on the island (she moved there in 1988)

Social-technical relations Social-ecological relations Re-invigoration NGOs New Framing Networking International networks Identity Competence development Civil Society organizations

This is a CTP of initiative: INFORSE - Samsoe Energy Academy (Denmark)

2007: Energy Academy on an Energy Island   In 2007 the goal of being 100 % supplied with local energy is reached – Samsoe is truly Denmark’s Sustainable Energy Island. It is critical that the goal is reached, and it is necessary to look forward in order to keep momentum. A new process is started: ‘Samsoe 2.0’. The Energy Academy is established, formalising the status as a place for all kinds of actors to learn about sustainable energy. ML: In 2007 we really are Denmark’s sustainable energy island. We have established the Energy Academy. Now we have picked all the lowest hanging fruits, so what will be the next steps in developing the island? A new goal of being totally independent on fossil fuels is set. New partnerships are established, and a new legal foundation for the future work is made. A core event in the process is a workshop with the most powerful citizens on the island, establishing a sort of shared space, with all islanders invited for the following common dinner – making it possible for some of the powerful people to slip away before mixing too much with the common people. The event is filmed. The future plan includes a number of actions that are not directly related to renewable energy, but are more related to other aspects of developing the island: fighting for a new ferry (the vision is to run it on biogas), creating a better infrastructure and develop ICT solutions. ML: The new words are partnerships, fossil free and education. We did develop a Samsoe 2.0 future scenario – what is going to happen on the island the next 20 years – not only in regard to the energy question, but also in regard to a new ferry and a new broadband network that we would own ourselves: Samsoe Broadband.


This critical turning point is co-produced with large parts of the large network on the island that has been developed around the vision of Samsoe as Denmark’s Sustainable Energy Island. The different parts of ‘doing’ the sustainable energy island: involving farmers, plumbers, carpenters and other local craftsmen in the material transformation has been an important part of building up the network. New networks are being established, for instance a local organisation of owners of electric vehicles. New partnerships with private companies are established, for instance with the large Danish Pump industry Grundfoss, working with schemes for replacing old pumps with more energy efficient pumps.

Related events

All the experiences from 1997 – 2007 is an important part of this critical turning point: without the technical changes; without the successes of becoming a CO2-neutral island; without the national and international interest in the transformation processes, the next steps could not have been taken. ML: We could make a process like the one we made in 1997, and now I was no longer an outsider, I am seen as sharing the local values, I am able to follow up on the process – and the most important thing about a workshop is to be able to follow up with concrete actions. The experience of getting large and increasing numbers of interested visitors made it possible to establish the Energy Academy as a formalized place for exhibitions, conferences and courses. Being a CO2-neutral island (exporting as much sustainable energy as the import of fossil energy) made it realistic to plan to go to the next step: becoming fossil free – which implies that all vehicles should run on renewable energy, and the energy for heating in private homes should be reduced.


The most evident conflict was concerning the pace of change: to what extent should the island continue to change as fast as it had done in the period 1997 – 2007? It could be described as ‘best practice’ versus ‘next practice’. Some had the opinion that all this change was too costly.


The critical turning point was carefully planned in details. Every detail, however small, was planned and discussed with the relevant actors. Potential conflicts were solved in advance. Nothing was left to coincidences. ML: It was essential to having all the local people in power participating in the process of Samsoe 2.0. We had to design a process involving both these people and the rest of the islanders. We started with a shared space with 25 of the most powerful people on the island – this event was filmed. The event was planned and designed in every detail. After this we had a common dinner to which we had invited all the islanders – but making it possible for some of the people who had participated in the shared space event to leave. Some of the powerful people did not like the idea of mingling with the rest of the islanders.


An important part of the workshop was the discussion: ‘What will happen if we do NOT engage in further change?’ This was decisive for convincing critical voices that it was costlier to do nothing – in order to save the island, change had to continue towards sustainability. It was important to make the most powerful people support the vision ‘Samsoe 2.0’, making it their own vision.

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