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Ærø island in Denmark is the winner of the RESPonsible Island Prize

Ærø island in Denmark is the winner of the RESPonsible Island Prize

The shift to sustainable energy on the island has been driven by the citizens

Ærø island in Denmark is the winner of the RESponsible Island Prize. The ceremony was held during European Research and Innovation Days 2021. Jean-Eric Paquet announced the winner and the runners-up - El Hierro (Spain) and Tilos (Greece). These islands have made substantial achievements in their local renewable energy production of electricity, heating and engaging their community to fight for a greener future.        

Islands face a unique challenge when it comes to energy resources as they can rarely justify the placing of separate power plants on their territories. They are also, by definition, difficult to access from the mainland and its energy infrastructure.

This is why, when it comes to innovation, islands have very particular challenges and must come up with very particular solutions.

European Parliament member Villie NIINISTO (EFA) who also spoke at the ceremony, commented on the occasion: “We live on a planet with finite resources and must learn to integrate them into a circular economy.” This statement is even truer for islands.

The winner of the RESponsible Island Prize will receive 500,000 euros, the first runner-up – 250,000 and the second runner-up – 100,000.

The Winner: Ærø island in Denmark

The citizens and the municipality of Ærø have developed renewable solutions for a multitude of problems they face in their day-to-day. Local collaborative ownership funded the island’s wind turbines which generate around 130% of the power the island consumes.

At the same time, the excess wind energy powers the fully electric E-ferry “Ellen”. The ferry travels 40 kilometres between recharges, which in itself is a new world record.

Ærø’s solar heating arrays are some of the largest in the world. They supply the majority of the island's heating and are collectively owned by the consumers.  

Ole Wej Petersen, the mayor of Ærø explained that the push for renewables was mainly driven by the citizens of the island and they have a share of the installations now.

The first runner-up: El Hierro in the Canary Islands, Spain

El Hierro has a unique Wind-Pumped Hydro Power Station that makes the island a pioneer in the field. The president of El Hierro Island Council Alpidio Armas Gonzalez said he was happy to contribute and export the community’s experience to other islands.

El Hierro’s success is based on a combination of a vibrant social movement bound by the respect of the island’s specific natural resources and an innovative technological solution. A wind pumped-hydro power station. And other islands have already been inspired by both aspects of this device.

These are Icaria in Greece, which has recently commissioned a similar system, and Gran Canaria, which will start building a 200 MW power station very soon.

The second runner-up: Tilos in Greece

Efstatios Kontos, General secretary of the Municipality of Tilos received the award. The island’s commitment to environmental friendliness started with a piece of legislation that made its territory a natural reserve.

At the same time, the municipality and the locals are trying to achieve zero emissions on the island and through the clever implementation of tourist marketing, they are attracting like-minded type of tourists - all working together for a circular, carbon-free tourist sector.

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