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Danish Environment Hero Advises Korea on Alternative Energy

Danish Environment Hero Advises Korea on Alternative Energy

Posted October. 30, 2009 08:18,   


“Since green growth is not an option but an obligation, for industrialized nations, I highly appreciate Korea’s green growth strategy. But Korea should also suggest detailed measures to implement its strategy instead of just making a declaration.”

Danish environmental hero Søren Hermansen said this yesterday at the third World Forum of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development at Busan Exhibition and Convention Center.

The director of Samsø Energy Academy said he appreciates the Korean government’s green growth strategy, but expressed his regret over the lack of detailed implementation measures.

Hermansen lives on Samsø, a small island located east of the mainland of Jutland. He played a critical role in transforming the fossil fuel-based Samsø into an island that uses renewable energy. A decade ago, the island heavily depended on coal and oil from the Danish mainland.

The island, however, now generates renewable energy on its own. The global spread of Samsø’s fame led Time magazine to name Hermansen a “hero of the environment” in September last year.

His success story began in October 1997, when he won a contest held by the Danish Environment and Energy Ministry for brilliant ideas on renewable energy. He had grown up on a family farm on the island known for dairy and pig farms, and suggested making Samsø energy independent.

Samsø residents showed little interest in Hermansen’s suggestion. “I had an idea but didn’t know how to pursue my plan. It was really hard to persuade my distrustful neighbors. It was also tough to get funding,” he said.

He visited every resident to explain that renewable energy is not only good for going green but also good for generating money. Consequently, Samsø residents invested in his first project to build wind power plants.

Of the island’s 4,300 residents, 450, or more than 10 percent, invested in the project to build 11 wind power plants. A whopping 72 million dollars out of 84 million U.S. dollars invested into building a renewable energy has been drawn from Samsø residents.

The residents’ proactive participation has made Samsø the world’s first area to meet its energy demand with renewable energy generated nearly 100 percent by residents. Since the volume of power generation surpasses demand, the remaining power is sold to the Danish mainland and the revenue is shared by Samsø residents.

“If a company sets up wind power plants nearby a village, residents criticize it. But their attitude changes if they run wind power plants themselves and even earn income,” Hermansen said.

With the success of the wind power plant project, Samsø has also turned to biomass energy using wood waste and straw as raw materials, building solar power plants, and generating offshore wind power energy.

The island is now a vivid exhibition of renewable energy. After installing solar panels on their own homes, Samsø residents say they save money on their roofs, not in banks.

Positive signals have emerged from the “CO2 negative island,” as its carbon emissions have decreased 140 percent since 1997. Most of all, the project has created more jobs.

So can Korea apply the lessons from Samsø’s success? Hermansen says yes.

“Denmark has strong winds but Korea has strong sunlight. Solar power will be nice for Korea. What matters is to begin, even if you start on a small scale. If you launch a renewable energy project, jobs will be created. If energy expenses fall, the renewable energy project will gradually spread to other villages,” he said.