Facing Climate Change, Part III
By Emillia Noordhoek
Editor’s Note: Emillia Noordhoek, executive director of Sust`ainable Molokai, traveled to Europe to attend the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year. This is the third in a three-part series about the Panel’s conclusions and how global climate change will affect Molokai and the world.
Samso is an island off the coast of Denmark in the Baltic Sea that is 16 miles long by four miles wide, with a total area of 44 square miles. The island’s electricity is powered 100 percent by renewable energy and they are connected to the mainland by a cable to sell the over-production to the rest of the grid. Samso is an agricultural island that exports fruit and vegetables, well known for potatoes. The second largest business sector is tourism, as Samso is a small, idyllic island during the summer, where visitors rent vacation homes or stay in their summer homes. I visited the island in September, 2013 for two days to gain a greater understanding of this ambitious project and energy goals in an effort to ascertain if this could be a good model for Molokai.
There are many similarities: both are small rural communities of similar size, both have agriculture and tourism-based economies, with limited resources and very engaged communities that love their island.
Samso’s transition to renewable energy began in 1997, when Denmark’s Ministry of Environment was inspired to work towards increasing the amount of renewable energy to 35 percent by 2030. He designed a competition to highlight a local community that could become as close to 100 percent renewable as possible, and Samso won. At the time, the island was almost entirely dependent on oil and coal, with less than 13 percent of its energy coming from renewable sources.
To make the transition, the community focused on three sectors: electricity consumption, heating, and transportation. Ten wind turbines were installed offshore and 11 on land, which meet their average electricity consumption of 29 megawatts. One of the ways in which the island’s policymakers facilitated acceptance of the program was to offer the option of local sponsorship. Nine turbines are owned by local farmers and two by a local cooperative of 450 residents.
Now that Samso has been using 100 percent renewable energy for over 10 years, they are working through community meetings to become fossil fuel free by 2030. For Molokai and for Hawaii, it is important to see working models of communities especially other islands that have been able to make that transition and were able to sit at the table together. If it is our goal to also become a “renewable energy island,” it is vital that we, as a community, also consider the idea of becoming fossil fuel free as well, with currently 70 percent of our fossil fuel use for transportation.
Sust`ainable Molokai has been gathering data from our community to create the Molokai Energy Assessment as a guide to find those energy solutions for Molokai, which we will be publishing and distributing this month. This document is part of our Molokai-pedia project and follows our Molokai Agricultural Needs Assessment. We have collected information on our community on energy issues through surveys and interviews. Copies will be available through scheduled community meetings, libraries, the Kuha`o Business Center and through our office (560-5410). It is our hope that this assessment will create a baseline platform for us all to be on the same page to participate robust discussions about Molokai’s renewable energy future.