Exploring Bornholm is a boutique style consultancy. Our vision is to inspire creatives and urban leaders in disciplines such as Circular Economy, Green Energy and Placemaking, and encourage the establishment of thriving communities. What differentiates us however, is our source of inspiration. Instead on relying on theoretic examples, we look at the succesful community of Bornholm and reference their behaviour. Bornholm is a society that reinvented itself time and time again, and is now a leading destination in the area of green ambitions, circular thinking and community making.
Through the following series of case studies, we aim to showcase a number of succesful examples from the island, and offer our audience a glimpse of what they can experience in our ‘Exploring Bornholm’ Seminars.
The Case Study series will debut with 3 interviews:
Interview 1: BEOF Head of Department for Public Affairs and Communication Klaus Vesløv on Green Energy
Interview 2: BOFA CEO Jens Hjul-Nielsen on Circular Economy
Interview 3: Destination Bornholm CEO Pernille Kofod Lydolph on Placemaking and Entrepreneurship.
The objective of these interviews is to unmask some of the efforts and achievements made by the island community in the direction of social and environmental sustainability, and understand how Bornholm is planning to ‘show the way’.
Therefore we invite you to dive into the mindset of Bornholm through the Case Studies below, and join us in our mission to learn from this inspiring community.
Interview with Klaus Vesløv / Head of Department for Public Affairs and Communication at BEOF
Bornholm has been chosen as the most sustainable energy island in Europe!
Bornholm has been focusing for a long time on the green transition.
Bornholm, among other things, has distinguished itself by beginning the phase-out of coal and oil early.
Could you please elaborate why that is?
– Are people on Bornholm made up of another DNA?
– Is there a different mindset
This is a hard question. But in my perspective the discussion started in 2008 when Bornholm, much like a lot of places in Europe, was in recession. We were looking into a future where the younger generations were moving away from the island and we were becoming less of a society.
Not to mention that it became harder and harder to bring well educated people back to the island. So something needed to be done out of necessity, and a strategy to make Bornholm attractive again needed to be implemented. For us it was not so much a movement to keep up with the green trend, but a way to create a society for the future.
When we started redefining the strategy for the island in 2008, a big question was: where can we differentiate from all the others?
At that time, the green transition was already starting to be a heated discussion, and the electric vehicles were on the way. Another perspective is that Bornholm is an island where most of the income comes from tourism. So where do these two considerations meet?
Tourists in the future will be looking into travelling to places with amazing nature, but also to places that are green all-round and is an overall nice place to be. So this is how it started. We took the best and the brightest on the island, put them on a ferry, and travelled around the island for 24 hours discussing what are the perspectives on Bornholm and how can we make a strategy based on a lot of different values. The conclusion was that we will aim to achieve a carbon free island by 2025.
With limited financial resources available to install renewable energy sources. The result is an efficient and reduced energy consumption and large reductions in CO2 emissions.
What exactly are the goals and how far from achieving them is Bornholm?
Carbon free society means a lot of things, one of which is transportation. Transportation is still a delicate subject addressed globally: how can it become carbon free?
However, when looking at the power and heat production we are actually proud to say that in normal production mode we are basically carbon free. The district heating and power on the island is actually entirely based on solar power, windturbines and woodchips or straw. We still have a bit of carbon that we need to take care of, because our waste sorting system is not 100% efficient as we are still burning plastic, and oil is still being burned in individual households outside the district heating areas. This gives us around 8.000 tons of CO2, fairly small in terms of the energy production of the island. Just to understand this number, in 2016 we have rebuilt the powerplant of Bornholm, and therefore reduced about 70.000 tons of CO2. The aim now though, is that by 2032 we will be waste free, so there will be no more burning and CO2 as a side product of this process.
We do however rely sometimes on the underwater cable from Sweden, importing around 10-15% of the energy needed on the island. This number will fortunately go down, as we will be installing more and more PV’s. Moreover, the Danish government has decided that in 2030, 2 GW of production off the coast of Bornholm will be put up, so I think then we will have solved the energy problem completely.
The reason why I say ‘normal production’ and this is quite crucial for me to say, is that sometimes we experience that the sea cable to Sweden is torn over. In cases like these, where the connection to ‘our battery’ if you may say so, is disturbed then the society shifts into another gear. Here, we are not talking about being green, but we are talking about keeping a society running.
By winning the prize (RESponsible island) of being the most sustainable Island in Europe Bornholm received a fund from European Union that can help the island further along the way.
Please elaborate on the meaning of such a prize?
It means a lot. One of the reasons for why Bornholm has made this journey is because, back in 2008, we realised that if we have to make this transition to a clean energy system, we -as an island- were fairly small and did not have the man/brain power to get on board with this agenda. So what we actually did was to participate in a series of Research Development & demonstration [RD&D] programs and programs through DTU. We were striving to get a lot of brain power to the island, and the luck was that we were an interesting player for a lot of big names in this scene. It started in 2009 with IBM Zurich, who saw Bornholm as the perfect testbed for their first program looking into how to charge electric vehicles. This opened the door for a rollercoaster effect, where companies such as Siemens, Nissan, Toshiba and Panasonic hopped on the ride.
Therefore, in this movement we were able to get access to a network and a knowledge base that was quite extraordinary.
At the same time we also realised that, with all this knowledge coming in, a lot of different approaches were appearing. These approaches were more often than not contradicting each other and on top of this pond of options, there was also the political aspect. So all this input needed to be analysed and considered before we reached a common ground for the right strategy. The why is easy, the how is what’s more difficult.
What we did, was to design a simulation model of the entire energy system for the island, taking into consideration both the production and the consumption. What we could utilise this for is to look into the roadmap of different technologies, as well as demographic and climate changes, and make more informed decisions.
So back to how can we utilise this award and what does it mean for Bornholm. First of all, it’s a fantastic market platform for the entire island, both in terms of attracting tourists but also new residents. This is what we are seeing now. More and more well-educated people from the bigger cities from the main land of Denmark, are now choosing to move to Bornholm because they would like to be part of this movement. Maybe this is what sets the new residents of Bornholm apart . . .
In November 2019, Danish windmill manufacture company Ørsted presented its vision to use the Danish island of Bornholm, situated in the Baltic Sea, as an energy hub by making it the centre point of a proposed new interconnection between Denmark and Poland, in reality making Bornholm the world’s first energy island. ‘The islands’ become the first of their kind in the world and begin a “new era for the expansion of Danish sea wind”.
‘The islands’ must be completed by 2030 and must ensure, among other things, that in the years to come, Denmark can electrify more parts of society and at the same time contribute to ensuring that all Danish households and companies’ electricity consumption is covered by green electricity.
This seems to be a huge chance for Bornholm and a paradigm shift from being away from everything to being in the middle of everything!
What is now the biggest challenge for the Island in order to achieve its goals?
I just want to contradict you for a moment and say that Bornholm has always been in the the center of the world!!
Jokes aside, this program through Ørsted is a fantastic opportunity. The real discussion is how can Bornholm actually utilize this program because it looks like it is definitely going to happen. In approximately 10 years we will have a production capacity just 20 km from the island, which is able to sustain between 2-3 million households. This is a little more than what we already have on Bornholm, where we have 25.000 households. We are talking vast amounts of energy that are designed to go both to Poland, to Denmark but also to Sweden.
I personally have two perspectives on this discussion. The first is that we need to have a new discussion on Bornholm related to the development of the energy system. Today we have a capacity designed to face the problem of the sea cable being turned over. In the future, when the sea turbine park is here, this solution would not be a necessity.
The greater question however is what is this program going to mean for Bornholm? What is it going to mean for the job market on the island? What type of workforce do we need to have on the island? How can we take part in this project from start to implementation?
Here are some more understandable examples to explain what I mean: do our plumbers need to have new certificates? Do our bakeries need to produce more bread for workers coming to the building sites in the mornings?
In terms of planning for this future there are a lot of discussions rising right now, and some of them are political.
Another issue is the chapter of ‘power to X’. It is an expectation that by 2030 we will have ‘power to X’ that is also affordable…but this is yet to be seen. It needs to be investigated and we need to decide in which sector we would utilize this solution. So there is a prerogative to understand how these surpluses of energy that will hit the system will be treated and utilized.
However, this is exactly how we should utilize Bornholm: the same way we have been doing it for the last years: by trying to find solutions to some of the more complicated questions related to energy and showing the way of how this should be done.