Storifying Samsøs Renewable Energy Transition

Irina Papazu

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Abstract

Through a joint community effort Denmark’s Renewable Energy Island Samsø became self-sufficient with renewable energy over a period of 10 years from 1997 to 2007. Today, the story about Samsø’s successful energy transition has become a global export and a widely known model of community building, public participation and shared ownership in renewable energy technologies and transition processes. What has allowed the Samsø narrative to travel so widely has been the effective ‘transition story’ created about the islanders’ efforts. This transition story, however, has become fixed with the years and has assumed an ideal-typical character. Meanwhile, the challenges and costs inherent in the complicated socio-material process of transition are underestimated and largely forgotten. While such transition stories are indeed inspiring, the ideal-typical narrative may stand in the way of the development of further local energy transitions, as challenging elements of the process are downplayed to strengthen the narrative power of the story. Ethnographic stories about Samsø complicate the island’s transition narrative and add nuance to the Samsø story, highlighting its discrepancies and problematizing the effects of such well-crafted transition narratives. This tendency toward the ‘storification’ of transition processes is not restricted to Samsø; it is employed as a tactics by environmental organizations operating globally.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScience as Culture
Volume27
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)198-220
Number of pages23
ISSN0950-5431
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Published online: 16. November 2017

Keywords

  • Ethnography
  • Transition stories
  • Renewable energy
  • Local energy transitions

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