University of Vermont

Jeffords Hall

9/30 Energy Action Seminar

by Lisa Watts Natkin, Curriculum & Community Connections Graduate Assistant






Soren Hermansen of Samso Energy Academy in Denmark gave a presentation on September 30th for the Energy Action Seminar entitled, A European Model for Energy Independence. 

Samso Island produces 10% more energy than its 6,000 residents use each year.  Soren was a vital part of the islands transformation.  He credits his family’s history and reputation in the community for his ability to connect and communicate with the locals.

In 1977, Samso gave up fossil fuels and made a goal of using 100% renewable energy in 10 years.  This was a top down decision local people were not invested in the solution.  Decision makers desired energy independences so they are not relying on an outside source for their energy. Soren was hired to get the communities participation. 

His first challenge was dispelling misperceptions.  Farmers thought it was a hippy project and did not understand what was in it for them. Soren sold them on the idea of owning wind turbine as a way to make money.  Samso has 11 big wind turbines.  Soren shared that the biggest misconception of wind turbines is that they kill birds, which he has not found to be true. He also figured out how to make electric cars attractive. Soren worked with tractor manufactures that wouldn’t warranty tractors if they weren’t using gas.  Soren listened to the farmers concerns and worked with them to overcome obstacles, gaining their support for the renewable energy initiative. 

Soren was an energizing and engaging speaker.  He invited the audience to get involved.  If you have the capacity to act, then act!  His presentation discussed renewable energy solutions but he also discussed the key to effective leadership being communication.  He offered the following solutions for a renewable energy future; reliable policies, brace politicians, long-term targets, reasonable budgets, local individual action plans and a strong community network.  He feels you need a master plan with a bottom up approach.

When asked what he enjoys about his position, his answer was engaging people in the process. Soren credited his success to the culture of Denmark; where you can be different from one another but you can still work together.