What P.E.I. can learn about renewable energy from a small Danish island

A group of Island MLAs representing all of the sitting parties in the P.E.I. Legislature are bringing back ideas from a recent trip looking at how other regions in the world are using renewable energy and how those practices can be adopted.

PC MLA Sidney MacEwen, Liberal MLA Robert Henderson and Green MLA Lynne Lund joined Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy, Steven Myers on a trip to Samsø, a small Danish island.

Myers said while visiting Samsø those on the trip were able to see how the island used sustainable energy.

"They are able to have control over their own energy needs. It was something we were very interested in trying to bring back here to P.E.I. We are excited about moving forward on it," Myers said in an interview with CBC News: Compass host Louise Martin.

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Samsø produces 100 per cent of its electricity from wind and biomass.

Biomass energy is produced from renewable, biological sources such as plants, wood and waste.

"That's what we are looking to do here," Myers said.

We are going to go out to an open call and ask communities to tell us what they think they can do. — Steven Myers, minister of transportation, infrastructure and energy

Myers announced the government's first sustainable communities initiative last week, which he said in the House will allow P.E.I. to become more energy independent.

Samsø has a population of just over 3,500, and while Myers acknowledged P.E.I. is larger, it has rural communities about the same size.

"I think as we start bringing communities on one by one and giving them the opportunity to do this that we can probably do what they did, but on a bigger scale," Myers said.

Myers said he thinks P.E.I. is ready for the change.

He said communities producing and owning their own energy will free up funds to be used on things such as parks, rinks or other community projects.

'Served two purposes'

One thing Myers said surprised him on the trip was a straw-bale burner used for central heat. He said the straw was burned to provide energy, but it also helped local farmers sell a crop that wouldn't be very profitable otherwise.

"It kind of served two purposes. It put money back into agriculture, but it also helped communities," Myers said.

Samsø took about 10 years to make the transition, and Myers thinks all of P.E.I. can shift to self-reliant renewable energy in the same time frame.

"If we give ourselves a 10- to 15-year window to accomplish this, I think you will see the whole Island come on board eventually," Myers said.

Community led

He said there needs to be "community champions" in each area and not a government-led initiative.

Myers said he and those who went on the trip have formed a committee and are coming up with a plan on how to roll out some of the ideas.

"We are going to go out to an open call and ask communities to tell us what they think they can do and what they can use based on the framework," he said.

Myers said there will be a "catalog of what is available" that you can pick from for your community.

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