This is a CTP of initiative: INFORSE - Samsoe Energy Academy (Denmark)
Creating a meeting place with content 1999 (-2007) This critical turning point is about using the transition of the technical energy system to create a local identity and a centre for meetings and education of the growing number of interested visitors – developing ‘Energy-tourism’ as a part of the island identity and economic basis. ML: When the first 10 years as energy island had gone, I asked the question: Why don’t we make a local meeting point, making the local energy office more than a mere project office? It would be interesting to use our experiences as basis for education and learning. We have to discuss what we communicate and how we communicate. The concrete energy technology is used, making the more abstract transition debate quite tangible, literally speaking: come and touch your windmill. The experiences with visitors were analysed to develop the strategy further. Visitors were growing in numbers: in 2002 there were 590 visitors; in 2007 this number had grown to 5000. Gradually different real energy education is developed. The development is also implying a growing interaction with actors from abroad – from being something special in a Danish context, and having focus on the local development on the island, global perspectives play an increasingly important role.
ML points at the combination of the local, personified in SH, and the outsiders, personified in her, as decisive for the development, realizing the potential. At the same time other actors on the island gradually changed their mind-set, being more open for this way of presenting the islands potentials as a place for experiencing the sustainable energy future in practice. ML: We are creating a brand new form of tourism, and turning the centre into an international centre. I think this goes beyond Svend Auken’s original ideas of a national centre.
This is clearly related to the actual transformation of the energy system on the island. But one thing is the actual technological change; another thing is building up the capacity to be able to handle the energy tourists and education. ML: One thing is to develop energy technologies; it is quite another thing to make a deliberate development of education and learning. It is also a new way of branding the island.
Some people had difficulties in seeing the potential at the start of the process. Apart from that, this critical turning point is much more about emerging opportunities than of conflicts. ML: In the beginning some of the locals found this thing about education strange. They had difficulties in seeing the point, and they felt uncomfortable. In some ways Samsoe is a conservative island community.
This development was not foreseen at the very start, but in the short perspective it was a very well planned process, with a strategic goal. ML: We planned it. We analysed the idea of professional energy tourism very thoroughly and applied for funding. Some of the consequences – how famous Samsoe became – were neither foreseen, nor planned.
Seen from the local perspective, the most important learning point was that it was possible to be a meeting place with a content concerning the development of Samsoe as a sustainable energy island – which lead to the establishment of the Energy Academy in 2007. ML: We became a destination in peoples’ minds; both in Denmark and in the rest of the world. People could come here and see that it was true: we were actually a CO2-neutral island. Another local learning was the local actors suddenly become leaders and icons without having planned it. ML: We learned about ‘leadership’. Suddenly we became icons, SH was a hero in Times Magazine. It was beyond imagination.
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