New model for involvement
Denmark is facing massive investments in the expansion of renewable energy and the construction of so-called 'Power-to-X (PtX) plants', which convert green electricity into storable forms of energy such as hydrogen, ammonia and methanol.
But the establishment of a climate-friendly energy sector also holds the seeds of conflict and local resistance when large-scale PtX facilities, solar farms and wind farms are planned for construction close to residential areas or pristine nature.
A new research project, anchored at the University of Copenhagen and co-financed by the Innovation Fund, is looking at ways to mitigate that risk in close collaboration with several energy companies. The goal is to develop and test a model for how companies and authorities can involve citizens and local communities more actively in the green energy transition.
The new research project is well in line with the way that HØST PtX Esbjerg has chosen to approach the local community, and Communications Manager Karina Smedemark participates as an external partner to the project on behalf of HØST PtX Esbjerg.
- From the very beginning it has been extremely important for us to listen to the local stakeholders, and we have worked with several different approaches. First and foremost, we wanted to be present locally with an office in Esbjerg to stay in tune with what goes on in the community. Furthermore, we have made a virtue of inviting the local communities to citizens’ meetings, where we have tried to cover the geographical area around our plant, explains Karina Smedemark, who is in regular contact with local stakeholders.
- We talk continuously with interest organisations, NGOs, local politicians and not least citizens and local councils. It is all about providing as much information as possible, and about how much we do to ensure safety and nature preservation during the process of constructing our plan.
We frequently attend both public and private events to present the HØST project, just as we have held several panel debates for the industry, and also participate actively in the Energiens Folkemøde; a local energy fair open to the public. We constantly try to improve our communication, and therefore it is natural to be part of this new project.
Strong democratic process
The goal of this research project is to improve dialogue between local communities and developers, in order for the green energy transition to take place as smoothly as possible.
- Political decision-makers and developers are naturally concerned about citizens protests. But this project is also about strengthening the democratic process via dialogue with the individual citizen, the local community, and the overall political level. In this way, the project has a democratic perspective, which will hopefully also bring better solutions to the table, says Simon Westergaard Lex, who is responsible for the research project.
Other companies taking part in the project are European Energy - who are also establishing a PtX facility in Esbjerg - as well as Danish Center for Energy Storage, Behave Green and Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping.
You can learn more about the research project here: Researchers will increase citizen engagement in the transition towards green energy – University of Copenhagen (ku.dk)