A brave Swedish village combating climate change
As the effects of climate change become increasingly evident, calls for a transition towards cleaner energy are growing. A small village in the south of Sweden has taken a practical response, embarking on a bold project to exploit its natural resources of sun and wind.
Since 2017, residents of Simris have been producing their own energy supply and intentionally disconnecting from the national grid for 1 week in every 5, making this small village - with a population of just 235 - home to one of Europe’s most innovative renewable energy projects.
Tapping into nature’s resources
The project is led by E.ON, a German-based electrical utilities company focused on renewables. They worked with villagers to provide them with the technology they needed to generate their own electricity: solar panels to generate energy, battery systems to store energy, heat pumps to regulate temperature efficiently. Residents paid for the technology themselves, purchasing what their finances allowed.
Today, the population lives entirely on locally-produced renewable energy for 1 week out of every 5. If local power sources run out, Simris gets its energy from the grid, preventing interruptions in supply. Equally, if the energy produced in Simris exceeds its needs, residents can sell electricity back to the grid.
Positive people power
Simris was chosen by E.ON as a location to test the viability of producing 100% locally-sourced renewable energy as the village is one of the windiest and sunniest places in Sweden, and was already home to a wind turbine and solar farm.
There was political support for the project from local authorities as well as practical assistance – for example, in providing guidance on construction permits. However, it was the enthusiasm and level of commitment shown by inhabitants that convinced E.ON to work with Simris. “It ramped up in a very positive way because we didn’t know [at first] how many of the citizens were willing to participate proactively,” said Luis Arturo Hernández, head of decentralised energy systems at E.ON. “When I say proactively, it’s not just signing a paper – they needed to invest in new technologies.”
For Hernández, the inhabitants’ motives for getting involved in the project were environmental rather than financial, and inspired by a desire to do something for the good of all citizens. “They’re doing this because we gave them the possibility to impact society positively, to try to slow down climate change and eventually stop it,” he said. “That’s really what has been driving them.”
A model for success in rural areas
After initial investment by E.ON, the project also received EU funding from the INTERFLEX programme, which covers 70% of costs up to 2019. E.ON plans to continue the project in Simiris after that date, further building on the support from citizens to produce renewable energy in this remote village.
Looking forward, the company intends to replicate its success in other European countries, supporting inhabitants in the countryside so that they can benefit from locally produced renewable power. “It’s going to be mostly similar places – rural areas, places where people can invest in having their own photovoltaic farms close to their houses,” said Hernández.