Sustainability, regional cooperation or local development are nothing but nice concepts unless they materialize into concrete projects and initiatives that actually change communities and lead to real impacts at the different societal levels. This is why initiatives like North sea the study trip on RE regional cooperation – organized by the Heinrich-Boll Stiftung and the World Future Council – are so important and why SEYN is thrilled for having had the chance to take part in it. This trip, of over 1000 km, across 5 European countries, demonstrates what cooperation is all about and how much there is too learn beyond the borders of our cities, regions and countries.
As discussed with a Ministry’s representative in Copenhagen, at the wider institutional level, regional cooperation in the EU may seem unattainable or too complex. Yet initiatives like Project Zero in the Danish town of Sønderborg and their German counterpart (Klimapakt) in Flensburg, showed us that people will naturally share best practices and cooperate because down the line all will benefit – communities, the local economy and the environment.
We learned that way before Denmark set RE targets, the people of Sønderborg pledged to be carbon neutral by 2029. Such ambitious target naturally meant the need for citizens, businesses, the municipality, local banks and educational institutions to collaborate mostly in the form of public private partnerships. Energy efficiency initiatives have been rolled out across the city achieving impressive savings. The energy and inspiration of this Danish town spread across the border and the German town of Flensburg set their own targets for energy saving and sustainable mobility that is already delivering results with an electrical car sharing project led by local stakeholders. Frequent exchanges and an annual conference on either side of the border ensure that knowledge is shared, with a pinch of healthy competition that make things move faster, because we can’t afford to wait any longer for energy transition to take place.
The need for speed is even more evident in Groningen, Netherlands, where natural gas extractions have caused hundreds of earthquakes in the last few years with high socio-economic costs for local people. In a land constrained country, smart solutions, cross sectoral collaboration and genuine citizen involvement are crucial for a fast energy transition, which is what EnTranCe is trying to emulate with creative projects like the Energy Barn and an open space where companies and students can try test new technologies.
Involving young people in the energy debate, especially through fun tools like the Energy Game we had the chance to play, is critical for the much needed energy transition. This is SEYN’s DNA and, at the end of this intensive trip, it is even more clear that the next big thing is a lot of small things tied together.
SEYN would like to thank HBS Europe and World Future Council, as well as all the participants, for this great opportunity and experience.
Susana Guerreiro, SEYN
Susana Guerreiro holds a MSc on Social Psychology, with a focus on Environmental Psychology and more recently concluded a MSc on Environmental Science, Policy and Management, a joint European programme from Central European University, Lund University, Manchester University and the University of the Aegean, with a thesis on renewable energy cooperatives in Indonesia.
After some years of experience on climate change and RE policies, more recently her work has focused on social change processes in the energy sector, namely community energy projects in Indonesia and Portugal, where she managed the operations and communications of the first Portuguese renewable energy cooperative.
Susana is a firm believer in the power of citizens in tackling our most pressing environmental challenges and in the special role of young people in our energy future, which has led her to co-found the Sustainable Energy Youth Network.