Conference highlights ways P.E.I. could learn from Danish island’s fight against climate change

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — A conference and workshop held at the P.E.I. Conference Centre on Feb. 6 highlighted ways the province could learn from the work being done on another small island in the fight against climate change.

The conference was hosted in Charlottetown by the Department of Environment, Energy and Climate Action and featured several speakers, including Søren Hermansen, manager of the Samsø Energy Academy in Samsø, Denmark.

“My ambition is to clarify to (P.E.I.) what are the next steps, where are we going with this. Is it going to be more expensive?” Hermansen told SaltWire Network in an interview at the event.

“After (post-tropical storm) Fiona, the attention is stronger than ever, because we felt the consequences of nature and all of the trouble it has to bring.”

Hermansen has been working with green energy for over 20 years, with the last several spent travelling the world to hold workshops, showcasing the work being done to reduce emissions on his home island.

Samsø has a population of more than 3,700 people as of 2017 and has been working to convert its grid to run on non-emitting energy sources going back to the 1990s.

Like P.E.I., Samsø is known for growing and exporting potatoes on top of being a popular tourist destination.

“There is a lot of similarities, not just in size only but also in the constructive society,” said Hermansen. “My take is, how do we organize a higher decision capacity and a better feeling of ownership among citizens of local communities like P.E.I. or Samsø that are kind of limited (in) scale and size?”

The goal of the workshops is to have an open discussion with communities to discuss changes needed in order for green technology to become more commonly used.

“The ambition is to make Samsø a showcase green lab development organization that helps the municipality, citizens and businesses to go in a greener direction,” said Hermansen. “You need to be able to produce or create a narrative people can connect to.”

Anna Demeo, chief product officer for Fermata Energy, also spoke at the event and told SaltWire Network the effects of climate change impact many different departments, making it important for the community to work together.

“It’s really a unique period in time, the solutions we find, it’s not a zero-sum game,” said Demeo. “What’s good for utilities can be good for consumers and can be good for the environment as well.”

Some of the work done on Samsø cited by Demeo was its implementation of offshore wind turbines, which account for over 70 per cent of the energy produced on the island.

“Technology is one piece of it, but it’s really about how do we work together in terms of policy and economic models,” she said. “All of these things are at the forefront discussion because of climate change, because of a changing grid and because of increased extreme weather events.”

Having the opportunity to share this message in P.E.I. was important as similar work is already being carried out.

“Everyone should want to have a part in this conversation because there are shared benefits no matter which one of those angles you’re coming from," said Demeo.

Environment, Energy and Climate Action Minister Steven Myers also attended the event, saying in a statement that having Hermansen in P.E.I. was a unique learning opportunity for the public.

“Hermansen won the Goteborg award – known as the environmental version of the Nobel prize – for his work with sustainable energy and he inspired Samsø Island to collectively build a community energy project,” said Myers.

“Since 2020, we have been building on lessons learned from sustainable energy models in Samsø and other jurisdictions to inform our nation-leading net-zero goals.”

Rafe Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Guardian