European island winners reflect renewables drive


The islands of Ærø, El Hierro and Tilos have been awarded the European Commission’s latest RESponsible Island prizes.

The three islands are recognised for achievements in local renewable energy production for electricity, heating, cooling and transport.

The main winner, the Danish island of Ærø, which receives a €500,000 cash prize, has a remarkably high share of renewables in electricity, with wind producing more than 125% of the energy use. In addition, solar and biomass district heating solutions are used in public buildings for heating and cooling.

A current step-up of efforts in transport paves the way for Ærø to become entirely fossil-free in 2030. The island successfully highlights the importance of strong citizen engagement and co-ownership for clean energy transition, which can be a very good example for other islands and energy communities to follow.

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El Hierro, part of the Canary Islands in Spain, in second place with a €250,000 prize, has reached an average level of almost 60% of electricity from renewable sources with the start-up of its combined wind-pumped hydropower station. Notably, the island has achieved a record of 100% renewable electricity supply for 25 consecutive days.

The energy facilities are in majority owned by the island government Gorona del Viento, which promotes their positive impact on community and citizens. Among the offers is free electricity for electric vehicles on the island.

The Greek island of Tilos, which wins €100,000, has accelerated its clean energy transition over recent years thanks to the commitment of the local municipality and the pro-environmental culture of its citizens.

High shares of renewables in the local electricity sector have been achieved with community-scale wind and solar, battery energy storage and advanced energy management and metering. At the same time, efforts have been extended to the areas of e-mobility and renewable-driven EV charging infrastructure, sustainable water management and energy efficiency in the local public lighting sector.

“Islands can be inspiring examples of how to involve local communities and citizens in realising the ambitious goals of the European Green Deal,” says Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.

“This, together with the transformation of local energy systems with innovative renewable energy technologies, is what the RESponsible Island Prize is all about. I warmly congratulate the prize winners, who will inspire other islands and energy communities.”

The European islands are home to more than 20 million citizens and their transition is key for the region to meet its carbon reduction commitments.

The island winners were selected on the basis of their share of renewable energy produced by innovative energy technologies, environmental and socioeconomic sustainability and impact, citizen and community involvement as well as replicability of the solution.

This is the second round of the competition. The previous winners in order were Bornholm, Samsø (both Denmark) and the Orkney Islands (UK).

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