Thisted, located in the north-west of the Danish Jutland and home to 43,993 (2016) residents, is a prime example for the grassroots development of renewable energy within a municipality. In fact, the successful transition towards 100% self-sufficiency in electricity supply from renewable sources was not the result of a political decision, but instead has its origins in the gradual expansion of private investments into the utilisation of renewable energy since the early 1980s. Today, all but one of the 252 wind turbines surrounding Thisted are privately owned. In total, 80% of Thisted’s total electricity demand is produced by wind power, while the remaining 20% are provided from biogas plants. Through the additional production of energy from mainly privately owned solar power and geothermal plants that cover 85% of Thisted’s heating demand with renewables, the municipality exemplifies a decentralised energy supply.
Thisted’s recipe of success: an alliance of citizens, grassroots organisations and local companies all unified in their commitment to contribute to the municipality’s supply with renewable energy by utilising wind, geothermal energy and biogas, which is accompanied by the respectively strong political will to provide a suitable environment for enabling this transition towards a fully self-sufficient energy supply.
The involvement of the community as stakeholders is the key to the strong local commitment in investing in renewable energy. In particular, many farmers have invested in wind power and these investments paid off quickly, generating benefits after 6-7 years. Aside from the surplus energy that is sold and fed into the general grid, agricultural byproducts generate additional benefits, as they can be processed into bioethanol, biogas, or biopellets, constituting an additional energy supply from renewable sources. At the same time, Thisted’s citizens are saving one third of their energy costs for heating in comparison to oil-based heating systems.
The Thisted municipality has become a dynamic environment that inspires innovation, in fact: a living laboratory. Test centers have been established, continuously working on the development of new approaches in the field of renewable energy production by utilising wind and wave energy, as well as solar power and biogas. Moreover, the community plans to build a virtual power plant in order to be able to temporary shift the energy supply to the most economical production source.
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Tuesday, April 12th, 2016