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Which City Will Be Fossil Fuel Free First?

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 17 Jul 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Carbon Emissions Global Warming Climate

There are many projects ongoing throughout the world to reduce carbon emissions and therefore slow down global warming and climate change by switching from fossil fuels to sources of renewable energy. But perhaps one of the most ambitious is the plan by the Danish city of Frederkshavn, a port in northern Denmark, to become the first completely green city. Frederkshavn is planning to become the world’s first city to be completely fossil fuel free.

Why Frederkshavn?

Frederkshavn is a Danish sea port, lying just across the Kattegat Sea that looks over to Sweden. Until around 20 years ago, the port was a thriving community, with plenty of jobs provided for its 25 000 inhabitants by the local ship building yards. However, like in many parts of the world, ship building fell into decline and the last shipyard closed a decade ago, leaving over 7000 people from the city jobless. Left with no prospects of reviving that industry, the people in the city launched an action plan to survive by creating new companies, new jobs and new innovative solutions. Many of them focused on the need to become more aware of the damage that industry can do to the environment, local and global.

Renewable Energy Strategies

As of the end of 2008, the city has yet only managed to source just under a quarter of its power from renewable energy sources but wind power could increase this to over half in the next five years. The final deadline for becoming totally fossil fuel free has been set at 2015.

Many large wind turbines are already in place along the coast. Solar energy projects, and the use of biogas produced from the waste from agriculture and waste water from residential areas are also being explored and some are already active.

The city is looking to its near neighbour, the island of Samsoe, which is just off the cost in the Kattegat Sea. Samsoe is only a small community but it is already fossil fuel free. All of its energy needs are provided by wind power, generated by the wind turbines on the island, and three quarters of the heating that the residents need comes from solar panels with a significant contribution from biomass.

Is There Any Competition?

Becoming fossil fuel free is obviously a big issue in Scandinavia – the nearest competitor to Frederkshavn in the bid to be the first fossil fuel free city in the world seems to be coming from Vaxjo, a city in the south of Sweden. Vaxjo has already received awards for making good use of sustainable energy sources. It is already powered without using oil as an energy source and none of the heating required by the people who live there is derived from coal. Petrol is available but it has been made extremely expensive by tax levies but there are hardly any cars there than need petrol. The city has set up very successful schemes to power buses by biogas, to encourage cycling and to help companies set up green car fleets.

Vaxjo has a head start on most cities of the world – it decided to take these initiatives back in 1996, when the idea of becoming green was still very new. Nowhere else had the vision to expect it was possible to make an entire city free from fossil fuels. Now, after over 10 years of constant effort, Vaxjo emits one of the lowest levels of carbon emissions of any country in Europe.

An American Contender?

No other city even comes close, certainly none in the USA. However, a community in Colorado – known as Geos - has plans to become completely powered by renewable energy sources, which will be quite an achievement, even for 250 homes. Most of the houses will be built from scratch to be well insulated and to make the most of the power from the Sun, with large windows and solar panels on the roof. The first residents plan to move in towards the end of 2009.

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