6.1.2 The Samsø case

Course subject(s) Module 6. Next Steps

After the decrease of population in the 90’ at the island the inhabitants decided together they wanted to become an autarkic island, fully powered by renewable energy. In 2017, the island boasted a carbon footprint of a negative 12 tons per capita per year, while the average in the rest of Denmark is (a positive) 6.2 tons. At the moment 100% of its electricity comes from wind power and 75% of its heat comes from solar power and biomass energy. Also, more than a quarter of the cars are fully electric.

The island is Samsø is a success story, but the main point you can learn from this is how this island became autarkic, resulting in a negative carbon footprint. While it started with fully changing its energy system after winning a competition of the Danish ministry – to serve as a role model proving that a completely renewable society is possible – the greatest success was the motivation of the islanders. Each and everyone contributed both financially and in other forms to the energy transition by investing in wind turbines, distric heating plants, as well as lowering their footprint.

In this case you will read some articles, as well as to watch several video’s from both external organisations such as Al Jazeera and from the Energi Akademiet. The Energi Akademiet (Energy Academy) is the energy institute at Samsø that has been established to shape the green transition, and therefore has been involved throughout the whole transition. On their website are many interesting and inspiring video’s on their ideas and experiences. We selected a few that are necessary to watch, but many others are very interesting to watch and relevant for this course.

When going through all the material provided, keep the framework of the 4A’s in mind and try to discover all 4 in the case. Moreover, try to identify each A as a value in the transition of Samsø and to see what the trade-offs are that the community made, with respect to the 4A’s.

For this case you need to watch the following video’s:

  1. Al Jazeera English: Samsø, the Green Island
    In this video Al Jazeera visits Samsø. This video gives a great introduction to Samsø, and the story of their transition.
  2. Energi Akademiet: Community Activism
    This video focuses on how to activate your community, and what a strategy could be to support your ideas in the community.
  3. Energi Akademiet: Empower the Community
    How could you actually give the community the means of making a change? This video tries to address this question.
  4. Energi Akademiet: People can go from development to action
    This video tells the story of how the Energi Akademiet on Samsø tries to be a role model for other communities around the world, that are making a similar transition.
  5. DW English: Renewable energy on El Hierro
    Samsø is not the only island that aims to be fully powered by renewable energy. Watch this short clip showing how the Canary island El Hierro tries to transform its power system to rely for 100% on renewable energy
  6. Energi Akademiet: Tentau Leadership
    An inspiring video on what leadership is about, according to involved stakeholders in the Energi Akademiet.

The reading material for this case is:

  1. The Guardian: Energy Positive: how Denmark’s Samsø island switched to zero carbon.
    This article gives you an insightful introduction to Samsø.
  2. Sperling, 2017: How does a pioneer community energy project succeed in practice? The case of Samsø Renewable Energy Island.
    Sperling analyses the case of Samsø to gain more information about pioneering community projects in the energy sector. Of this article, you only need to read the introduction, chapter 2 and the conclusion.
  3. Munaca, Busch & Schwer, 2018: ‘Successful’ low-carbon energy transitions at the community level? An energy justice perspective.
    The authors analyse two cases from the energy justice perspective: Samsø and Feldheim – also a ‘successful’ community that made the transition to an energy system that is fully powered by renewable energy. Only read the introduction, chapter 3 and the conclusion.
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