A SHORT INTRO MALENE LUNDÉN AND A REPORT BY ANNE BACKHAUS
You are invited to stop by and experience one of the country’s most beautifully situated workplaces. With a panorama of the coast and sea and the Kattegat, so close that you’d think it was a lie!
The New year is upon us and we in the communication platform have invited project managers and consultants and the board to write with us this year. Yes, everyone helps to tell the good stories because everyone does great and decisive work and has their own workflow at the Energy Academy. Imagine that you can live in Manchester and work at Samsø.
THE DANISH ISLAND OF SAMSØ PRODUCES MORE ENERGY THAN IT CONSUMES. A DYNAMIC COUPLE AND A DEDICATED COMMUNITY ARE THE SECRET OF ITS SUCCESS.
A green-painted chipboard cut-out of Samsø lies on the floor, its outlines roughly sawn. The island has a big round “belly” and a long concave bay on one side that makes it look like a chunk has been bitten out. A nature reserve sticks up at the top of the island like a fin.
“It’s always good to know exactly where you are,” says Søren Hermansen. “And we are right here.” He points to the lower eastern part of the island. “So, where would you put the wind turbines?” Hermansen is the director of Energiakademiet (Energy Academy), an organisation in the small port town of Ballen that carries out a range of work including spreading awareness of renewable energy and how to make the switch. And that is exactly what Hermansen is doing today.
The tanned 63-year-old with short grey hair, dressed in black trousers and a denim shirt, is standing next to the chipboard island in the centre of a large circle of chairs. Sitting on the chairs are visitors from Poland. Some eyes are directed at him while others look furtively around the group, uncertain as to whether they are really expected to stand up and place the white cardboard windmills on the wooden island. Hermansen reassures them: “Come on, don’t be shy! This is how we started out back in the day!”
Ideas going beyond individuals
But even without that goal, Samsø needs more people like Philipp Cerny – people who want to make a difference and dare to follow in Hermansen’s impressive footsteps when it’s time for him to pass on the baton. The island’s achievements in the area of green energy seem to depend on the individual man Søren Hermansen more than on the much-lauded community spirit. Hermansen grew up on a farm on Samsø and attended school on the mainland from the age of 15. He went on to work on fishing boats in Norway, in agriculture in New Zealand, and to gain a degree in environmental sciences before moving back to the island and taking over his father’s farm for a while. In 1984, Hermansen met his future wife Malene Lundén, a photographer from Copenhagen who also knew about group dynamics and leadership. She says she fell in love with him “because his sentences always had a ‘we’ in them”.
The couple became the driving force behind the project, although many helpers joined their efforts over the years. Lundén, who prefers to work in the background, started out by writing a book about the project. It was her idea to receive guests in a circle of chairs: “Because it encourages open discussion and creates a feeling of togetherness.” At the numerous community meetings, only those holding the “speaker’s staff” are allowed to speak. That way, the islanders don’t talk over one another and everyone receives equal attention.The couple have invested a lot of personal energy over the years. They know how to talk to farmers and villagers as well as politicians, and have shown many different kinds of people how they could benefit from the energy transition. Their job is their life. “As a child, I was already helping out on the farm,” says Hermansen. “So it’s perfectly normal for me to work evenings and Sundays, doing everything required to keep the farm running.” Lundén adds: “That’s our lifestyle. Søren was often away at meetings abroad, sitting alone in hotel rooms instead of watching our children grow up. But that was entirely our choice – we’re like dance partners who take turns leading.”
So perhaps it is Malene Lundén and Søren Hermansen themselves who are the real shining examples here. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for the energy transition; a biomass heating plant or a wind turbine might not work everywhere. But people with agile and flexible minds, who can come up with viable and profitable ideas to act more sustainably at a local level, and who can convince the necessary people to implement those ideas – they are something the whole world could use. Naturally, Hermansen thinks this is an exaggeration: “It’s all well and good to put a talented striker on a football team to score the goals,” he says. “But without ten other players on the team, there wouldn’t be a match in the first place.” And with that, he dashes off – he has to quickly mow the lawn before joining a Zoom meeting with local government representatives in Canada.