More than a trend, implementing green energy technologies has become a necessity in the rush to eliminate the traditional ways of producing power to sustain humanity. Going 100% renewable is not a transformation that can be achieved overnight, not even in a few years, but it should be a goal that every city or municipality is aiming for!
Recent years have given a lot of great examples of successful energy cities. Successful in the way that technologies have been implemented, the private and public sector are both engaged through these projects, people are being educated in the right direction and the results are getting better year after year.
They can easily become role models and make it possible for other towns to go in the direction of an environmentally friendly makeover, then is important to be aware of the amount of work put into these projects, the upsides as well as the downsides that appear along the way.
Ahead of Nordic Smart Cities – The City 2.0 we conducted an exclusive speaker interview with Poul Rask Nielsen, Project Director, The Municipality of Frederikshavn about Energy City Frederikshavn
Poul is the Programme Director of Energy City Frederikshavn, coordinating strategic energy planning, preparation and implementation of different renewable energy projects. He has experience with strategic energy planning, preparation and implementation of different renewable projects, green growth, job creation, financing, political engagement and citizen involvement.
At Nordic Smart Cities Poul will speak about Smart City Strategy and Renewable Energy.
How did the Energy City project start?
The project started back in 2007 when at a national event the need for an area that could work on 100% renewable energy was expressed. The Municipality of Frederikshavn said they would like to be the place in Denmark which would do that. All the way it has been a local project with great involvement from politicians. One of the good things that we have is a strategic plan which is a kind of road map, this has been very helpful for us. It provides 32 specific actions on which we are trying to make follow-up and the politicians can see if we are doing this follow-up, so this kind of evaluation is very good, to have the strategic plan but also have specific actions.
How are citizens engaged in the project and how can they bring a direct contribution to it?
In many different ways. To give you an example, this evening I will participate in a rolling office we have created – this means we go out in the areas where people live. This evening I am going to a small village where we will talk with private house owners about energy renovation and about the project in general to the citizens. This is one of the ways we do it. We also have a weekly newspaper going out to all the citizens of the municipality, this contains a note on what people can do to sustain the transformation. Actually, we have a lot of different tools to use for citizen engagement, these are only two examples of how we do it.
Actually, the funny thing is that they would like to work towards this transition and very often they ask us what can they do by themselves. When this happens we explain to people the benefits renovating their homes using green energy solutions as a way to save money and getting better comfort, not just from a CO2 perspective. This has proved to be an effective way of addressing the problem.
In terms of policy, what struggles have you encountered since the beginning of the project and what were the solutions?
Of course, we had struggles, this is not an easy job. In theory, people are open towards new technologies, but when it comes to the point where this technology has to be set up next to their homes eg wind turbines they become resistant and this leads to politicians being afraid. We have to convince both the politicians, encourage them personally and then work with local people so they are not afraid of having these technologies close to them. An important point is to be realistic about the goals and allow a reasonable amount of time to achieve these goals.
What are the main funding sources for your project?
The total project will cost around €1Bn and most of the technology like biogas plants, wind turbines and energy renovation are 100% private financed. Our own projects are typically financed half from the municipality and half from national or European funds.
Where are the results of the project most visible and what can we expect from this project in 2017?
the site we have waste trucks which run on biogas and that is a new thing, we also have regional buses driving on biogas since last year and there is also a lot of energy renovation in private and public houses of which we are quite proud. These are the physical changes, but you can also see it in the general movement over the year when we make the evaluation. 65% of the households are heated by district heating and the heating companies are using more and more green sources of energy so you can easily see that we are moving and at the moment around 1/3 of the energy consumption is green.
We know that we are changing three to four percent from black energy to green energy every year in many different sectors and we have the yearly evaluation we conduct proving that. We also provide people with the option to come as a visitor to our city you can see the ascent. On site, we have waste trucks which run on biogas and that is a new thing, we also have regional buses driving on biogas since last year and there is also a lot of energy renovation in private and public houses of which we are quite proud. These are the physical changes, but you can also see it in the general movement over the year when we make the evaluation. 65% of the households are heated by district heating and the heating companies are using more and more green sources of energy so you can easily see that we are moving and at the moment around 1/3 of the energy consumption is green.
What are the main opportunities created by the project for the local community?
For the locals, one of the good things they have today through this project is counselling from an expert on what solutions are best for their house. With the reported house owners can go to the bank and get financing. We have one of the best collaborations with banks in all of Denmark. We also have a good collaboration with local craftsmen. It’s important to have dialogues with all the parties involved because then you have more ambassadors working in your direction. Nonetheless, the project is going to create around 7.500 jobs, so it will have a successive growth on the jobs market.