The island of Samsø has been selected as a Climate Leader in UN Global Climate Action Award due to its success in becoming the world’s first renewable energy island. It has completely transformed its energy system from fossil fuels to renewable energy, through a series of renewable energy investments, namely 11 on-shore and 10 off-shore wind turbines, 4 local biomass-fuelled district-heating plants, solar panels and electric vehicles, which enabled Samsø to reach 100% net annual balance of renewable energy.
In 1997, Samsø Municipality took the political decision of becoming Denmark’s renewable energy island in 10-year time. At the time, the island’s main energy source for electricity was coal, while oil was the primary energy source for heating and virtually all transportation on the island. Along with the foreseen renewable energy investments, the financing model was based on the participation of citizens and stakeholders as well as local ownership of the renewable energy investments at its core, leading to significant benefits for the island community and economy, new jobs and local growth. By 2007, Samsø was producing enough renewable electricity and decreased its fossil fuel consumption so much that the net annual balance of renewable energy in the local energy mix became more than 100%.
Very early in the process, Samsø realised that it was not alone in this transition and that many islands and others would be interested in learning from its experience. To reach out and inspire like-minded communities to follow its example, the Samsø Energy Academy, with a mandate from Samsø municipality, has started putting resources into capacity building at regional and national level, as well as into international cooperation in Europe and beyond. It participates in cooperation and knowledge exchange programmes, provides advice on sustainable community development and organises study visits, workshops and leadership programmes. The Samsø Energy Academy aims to inspire more local leaders, stakeholders, governments and policy makers around the world to act locally to address climate change in a way that improves the perspectives and chances for sustainable living of their people and their communities.
This approach brought tremendous benefits to the island and improved the community’s perspectives and sustainability in the long term. There was additional income for the Municipality and the citizens from the renewable energy projects and this had a positive impact on employment. Samsø has managed to build a brand name for what a successful community-driven energy transition can look like, demonstrating how renewable energy can be a catalyst for improving the prospects of a community for the future, good business and effective climate action at the same time.
To tackle its remaining GHG emissions, Samsø will use renewable electricity to cover heating and transport needs and will explore the option of locally produced biogas and renewable electricity as fuels for the ferries. Through these new investments, Samsø will become completely carbon-free by 2030.