Saturday, January 17, 2015

If We Build It ...

This is an inspiring story in this morning's Times: Denmark's prescient advance toward carbon-free energy meets the determination of Mainers to replicate their success.  The focus is the small (44 sq mi) island of Samso, whose wind turbines, biomass plants, and some geothermic make it a net energy exporter--most of the time. Interest in Maine starts with other islanders--Monhegan is taking the initiative--but also others: the Island Institute, the College of the Atlantic, some other small communities.

Of course no two places are alike: Denmark brings regulatory practices such as high fossil fuel and energy taxes that are anathema to Americans, and islands are perhaps easier to form into communities than mainlanders. Still there is much to learn at Samso's homegrown institute. Perhaps for the rest of us Americans who don't live on small picturesque islands in Maine, the big question is captured in this quote:

The Americans were skeptical that they could replicate the Samso experience back home, where clean-energy policies and subsidies are neither as consistent nor as strong as in Denmark. “How do we transfer success under the Danish regulatory structure to projects in the U.S.?” read one. Another wondered, “How to translate-encourage Danish energy conservation pragmatism/culture to American ‘comfort’ culture.” 

 There's the challenge: can we translate the "conservation/pragmatism culture" of a Denmark to the comfort-driven shores of North America--and fast! More than any technical details, the Danes are perhaps pointing us the way to that essential truth.

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