Last week, Mikael Kau the Director of the Project EnergiByen (The Energy Town) in Frederikshavn, came to give a presentation about the city. It was organized for a lecture for the Urban Planning students, but many phd students (some of them friends of mine working in this project or similar), professors and few other well dress people join the meeting. We were around 50 people. He made a presentation in English, because the master level is taught in English and maybe almost half of the students are usually non-Danish speaking.

I really enjoyed the presentation and following discussion. It’s a great project. It gives an identity to the town to be the “be the first medium-sized city in the world to be exclusively supplied with electricity, heat and power for transportation from renewable energy sources”. The date for this will be 2015, and the 25.000 people of the main city, also called Frederikshavn (out of the 65.000 of the municipality), will be getting al the energy from renewable sources. One of my favorite features it’s the citizen interplay with the project, which I believe it’s crucial.

The city was greatly impacted in the mid 90’s when the shipyards closed and 7.000 direct employments were lost. This was a great shock for the city. Around that time it started loosing population and many feared for the fate of the town. In 2006, the Energy Camp, where many energy specialists join, recommends Frederikshavn, for its characteristics to become a renewable energy town. The city officials embraced the project and the national government supported them.

We all hope this is not only a Public Relations project, this has to be a real one. In one way reminds me when Kennedy told the American people, who were feeling depressed by the Soviet Union having the total lead of the spatial race, that the USA will put the man on the moon. In its proper scale people of this small city can feel they can become a beacon for the renewable energy planning.
Out of the many technical questions that I did not get, one professor criticized the project saying that it’s not actually 100% renewable, because out of the trash that will be incinerated, much is not renewable (plastic and paper), but anyways, I think it would be impossible to separate what is renewable and not. The other issue is the cars and trucks. The city can not force the public to have electric cars, but they at least will offer the possibility of stations of hydrogen and/or methane (I’m not quite sure about these resources right now).
Until the end of this summer when the speculation forces put the oil price from almost 200$ to 50$; During these recent years the European zeitgeist has focused on renewable energy because of the global warming. Nobody knows what will be the consequences of the climate change, the Americans are more skeptic about it, while in general the Europeans are more afraid of its consequences (from what I’ve seen specially the Spanish and Dutch… no comments). You can clearly see the difference in a low consumption car advertisement in the US and in Europe. In the US, says “you will run more miles”, and the pundits like to say that the Arabs are the ones getting advantage of the American people (sic). While in Europe this car commercial will say something like: “A greener car, no contaminant”. With the European pundits saying that the global warming is imminent. Anyways, the point is that this EnergyByen project, has been quite influenced by the global warming thing, but regardless of what would happen, I’m confident that Frederikshavn is on the right track. Of course, now we have to hope that private and public interests, with the citizens make it happen.

This project affects the story of Frederikshavn, and I’m sure that if successful will put the city in the map. The city will be attractive for citizens and tourists. I hope for the best.