A guide to local pioneer societies
By project leader Malene Annikki Lundén
The Velux project that Samsø Energy Academy was granted in 2013 is a feather in our cap. The project is exciting, and it is necessary for us at the Academy to learn more about how the transformation on Samsø was accomplished and how our experiences can be used in the future. There is also great potential for added value in many areas of local society. The Velux Foundation and the Energy Academy have a firm belief that the guide to be developed will improve stability in the work towards creating sustainability and phasing out fossil fuels by 2030 with Samsø as a model community for these developments.
The Samsinge (the name for the local islanders) know how to make things happen. Together they have placed Samsø on the world map. In our new Velux project we will investigate and further develop the key techniques employed to motivate pioneers and grassroots on the island; groups of people who have been crucial to Samsø’s sustainable transformation into Denmark’s Renewable Energy Island. We want to know how these two archetypes – grassroots and pioneers – communicate and which tools were used in the procces around this positive change.
The Renewable Energy Island project, which started in 1997, was conducted on the basis of national legislation, well-known RE technologies and funds that were available to everyone in Denmark. Because of this availability of funds, one could ask why these grassroots and pioneers seem to be so hard to find outside of Samsø. Approximately 70% of the local Samsinge invested their own money in the joint project, Samsø’s transformation into the Renewable Energy Island of Denmark. But what made the locals invest in green technology?
Samsø’s energy transformation created both temporary and permanent jobs so crucial to a small society. The project has made Samsø, instead of the outskirts, the leading edge of Denmark. Samsø today is a model society that the world wants to learn from.
Through the renewable energy projects Samsø has developed a realistic and positive view of the future. In the Velux project, we investigate the role of the local society in the island’s transformation. Which role did personal leadership play? What about technology? With the positive spirals started by the transformation, many positive side effects followed; side effects that weren’t described in the first energy plan or in the municipal plans of 1998. This innovation has, among other things, turned into economic returns for Samsø’s businesses. Somewhat simplified, we can say that the Energy Academy’s projects can turn 25 cents into a dollar – and that’s not too bad!
In 2001 before the Energy Academy stood were it stands today, about 580 people visited the former Samsø Energy and Environmental Office, the NGO playing an important role in the energy projects. Back then, nobody would probably have believed that today,14 years later, the number of visitors has been upped by 500% with about three thousand people visiting every year, all year around.
The guide produced in the Velux project will be based on the many experiences and results made in the last 17 years. Eight histories or cases will be created. These cases will contain films, articles and infographics, which in a visual way will try to simplify complex messages, such as for example how the local individual Samsø CO2 footprint compares to the rest of the Danish people. How can it be that local Samsinge have replaced more oil-fired burners than the rest of the Danish population? What social and behavioral factors played a role in relation to the guidance of local groups around the island? What are the lessons that can be derived from the Renewable Energy Island project which not only Samsø but the whole world can learn from? Read one of the stories from the Velux guide about the island’s organic golf course as a pioneer project with greenkeeper and local “fire soul” Thomas Pilkær.
As part of the guide, three new models of society are being developed, models that are right now being tested by different target groups in Denmark. The models are tools that many of our partners have asked for, and if everything goes according to the plan people should be able to use them as a frame for working with sustainability projects.
The investigation and processing of the data from the Academy and in the Velux project will be based on the period 1997 to 2030 and will therefore cover before, during and after the Renewable Energy Island project – a timespan of 33 years. The Energy Academy will execute parts of the study with the actor-driven process techniques and tools that have been used from the start of the Renewable Energy Island project and which are still used in close cooperation with locals today. They work! Aalborg university will furthermore validate data in collaboration with the Energy Academy and will write scientific articles about the cases in the guide.
The Velux project will be finished the 1.1 2016 and is set to culminate in two workshops in Århus and Copenhagen where network and partners will be invited to a vernissage and celebration. The Academy will by that time be ready with a guide that can be used in the practical work with energy and community projects both by us on Samsø and by the people around us in all of Denmark and beyond. The guide will provide new knowledge about the success of Samsø as the Renewable Energy Island of Denmark, and about Samsø as a model society for making the change from fossil fuels to sustainability. The guide will be open source and therefore available online for free at the Energy Institute.
4 reasons why the Energy Academy wants to develop this guide:
- To secure and systematise the knowledge gathered in the Renewable Energy Island project in a practical and easy-to-use guide
- To qualify knowledge and find the crucial stories which best exemplify what works in local communities
- To link practical and Energy Academy knowledge about bottom-up approaches to sustainable development
- To generate new knowledge in a usable design which Samsø Energy Academy and its employees can use to refine the storytelling about Samsø as a model society