Renewable energy renaissance in Samsø

The island of Samsø (Denmark), one SMARTEES pioneering reference cases, reinvented itself in a matter of ten years from reliance to imported energy, into a self-sufficient exporter of renewable energy. The spark came from a couple of islanders in 1997 and had electrified the whole island by 2007. This amazing transformation was made possible innovative community engagement. The SMARTEES follower islands Traena (Norway) and Lemnos (Greece) visited Samsø in 2019 to learn about the islands social innovation.


In 1997 Samsø won a call launched by the Danish government to foster renewable energy project on islands of Denmark, with its 10-year renewable energy masterplan. To launch and manage offshore wind turbines, the Samsø Energy Company was created. Ten per cent of the inhabitants became shareholders, with 2 million € invested. Five of the offshore wind turbines are owned by the municipality, two by  inhabitants, and three are in private ownership. Together they produce 110,000 MWh per year, which allows after the islands own consumption to export 87,000 MWh per year to the mainland. Throughout the years, the reinforced trust and financial benefits generated by the project has resulted in installing more renewable energy installations with the support of the population and the municipality.


What made Samsø’s energy transition so efficient? The islands success stemmed from its ability to truly tap into to the local context and local mentality. The approach acknowledged the potentials and hindrances that existed on the island and harnessed the enthusiasm and pride of the islanders to create a sustainable future for the island. An online platform – the Pioneer Guide – was created to capture the island’s experience, share its knowledge and tools, and empower other communities in transition.  The follower islands got an opportunity to see the variety of energy installations including eleven onshore windmills, photovoltaic solar roofs powering electric cars and the boats in the port, thermal solar energy fields, and four biomass-powered district heating systems (fueled by local wood chips and straw). During the visit, the follower islands learned how to use these tools to mobilise and engage their inhabitants and ideared how Samsø’s approach could be used in their locality.


A photo gallery of the site visit is available on Flickr.


Read more about SMARTEES ‘Island and renewable energy’ cluster here.


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 763912. The sole responsibility for the content of this website lies with the SMARTEES project. It does not necessarily represent the opinion of the European Union.