Energy independent islands with zero carbon emission

17 Oct 2013

image A view of the Middelgrunden offshore wind farm in Denmark. The wind farm was developed off the Danish coast in 2000 and consists of 20 turbines./UN Photo: Eskinder Debebe
Krk Island is hosting an international conference about renewable energy cooperatives


What are some of the ways Croatian islands can turn towards sustainable energy resources? How can citizens become actively engagedin cooperatives? Howcan the capital reserved for conserving nature be included into the development of a local economy? All these questions are being addressed during the three-day conference 100% Renewable Energy Island—the Importance of Including Citizens through Energy Cooperatives, which is held on Krk island from October 17-19. The conference was organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in cooperation with the German Foundation Heinrich Böll, the Croatian company Ponikve d.o.o and Energy Cooperative Otok Krk, and supported by the European Project RESCOOP 20-20-20.

An increasing number of islands and local communities are warming to the idea of fulfilling their energy needs exclusively through renewable energy resources. Past experience confirms that this trend contributes to the local economy by creating new jobs, promoting energy and (later on) economic independence, as well as the development of tourism through green labeling. Islands and rural areas, which are facing the rough tides of emigration, can encourage locals to remain in their ancestral homes by going green. Introducing new and innovative technology attracts young and educated people, thus opening new possibilities for development in these areas. It is with this in mind that the conference is focusing on sharing knowledge and experience of similar initiatives on an international level.

 “Being the first one in the Adriatic and the entire Mediterranean, Krk has a real opportunity to become an island which enjoys zero carbon emissions by 2030,” stated Zdenko Kirinčić from the Eko otok Krk Association. “Citizens of Krk are serious in their pursuit, which is confirmed by the energy cooperative, the first one with a primary goal to educate the citizens and entrepreneurs from the island area and include them in the usage of renewable energy sources.” Kirinčić also emphasized that  Krk is setting a good example for others to follow.

A workshop in which ten energy cooperatives from Croatia will participate is going to be presented during the first day of the conference. Members of the energy cooperatives are coming together in order to invest in renewable energy resources - whether it is biomass (e.g. replacement of fuel oil or waste wood fireplace), investing in solar power (each member separately places a panel on the roof of a joint investment, such as the roof of a school), or investments in biogas plants (which is particularly interesting for farm owners, allowing them to get rid of the waste in an ecologically acceptable manner).

One of the reasons why energy cooperatives became popular in Europe is because energy is too important to have only politicians decide where and what is going to be built. Energy cooperatives allow the initiatives to develop from a “bottom up” perspective. This way, citizens that invest in renewable resources, alone or in cooperation with outside investors, have stronger ties on the local level.

During the conference, the island Eigg from Scotland will be introduced as the first island to be 100% energy efficient and reliant exclusively on renewable resources. Next is the island El Hierro in Spain, where a wind power plant installed together with a reversible hyro-electric power plant store the excess energy inwater, which later on provides energy in the absence of wind. Other islands will present their activities, such as Sifnos, Greece; Mallorca and Menorca in Spain; and other initiatives in Croatia after which Krk, as a host of the event, will present its zero emission strategy. Furthermore, existing energy cooperatives will be presented, such as the public wind power plant Middelgrunden in Denmark which mobilized 10,000 citizens to become its co owners, as well as the German city Schönau, where over 50,000 people gathered their electric network.