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GreenLab: A just transition in action

A just transition. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? But how does this somewhat fluffy term actually translate into real life? Through GreenLab Skive, the CISKA project showcases a real-life example of what a just transition can look like on a local level.
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7 September 2022

What is a just transition?

A just transition is where the placement of renewable energy is utilized to benefit the local community by creating green growth and jobs.

“Let’s create a power shift”. That’s the motto of the green industrial park, GreenLab Skive. Here, at a field in northern Jutland in Denmark, they are driving green transformation. Through co-creation and mutual trust, they find new ways of getting things done.

But GreenLab Skive did not just materialise out of thin air. It started as an idea at Skive Municipality and was capitalised in 2018 when it also became part of the EU-Funded CISKA Project (short for Circular Industrial Symbiosis Parks Scandinavia): A project exploring how industrial companies can enable each other to be greener through a symbiotic collaboration. At the same time, it has tested how public-private partnerships can be used to create industrial development, jobs, and green innovation. The approach has not only been a local success in Skive, it is now also replicated in Norway – and hopefully in many other places going forward.

A project like GreenLab, however, can be easier to imagine than to execute. As Stine D. Arensbach, Senior Advisor, PhD at NAVIGATE described the challenge of GreenLab Skive at the annual GreenLab Summit in 2022: Imagine the project as a jigsaw puzzle. Each puzzle piece is a stakeholder (companies, citizens, municipality, etc.) and you’ve lost the top of the box illustrating what the final image should look like. At the same time, the puzzle pieces can change shape so you need to consider all of the puzzle pieces at once and optimise them all at the same time so that they will at some point fit together.

Stine D. Arensbach, NAVIGATE
From GreenLab Summit 2022 and final CISKA conference

Does it even matter?
What difference does it make, creating a small living lab somewhere on the northern tip of a small Scandinavian country representing merely 0.1 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions?

Well, as Denmark has proven over time, it is sometimes easier to test out innovative solutions in a small scale. According to GreenLab Skive’s CEO Christopher Sorensen, an important factor is scalability:

For a living lab like GreenLab Skive to make sense for the green transition, it is important that the solutions that it nurses are scalable. We are a large-scale testbed for start-ups and researchers that want to find out if what works in theory works in practice as well.

He continues: “Another important factor is replicability. GreenLab Skive is a blueprint for how to build circular and green industrial parks that can be adapted to other locations all over the world. This adaption will always require a level of “translation” in terms of solutions, systems, legislation, culture, etc. One GreenLab will never be identical to another – it will always be adapted to local conditions because local anchoring and optimising resources are key to its success.

The interesting thing about circular economy is that you need everybody to participate. It’s vital to anchor the local society, not just the municipality or the public entities. Private entities, of course, are in it for the business – so we look at the green transition as an opportunity to create new markets, transform the industries, be a first mover, and find new off-take opportunities. If you do this cooperatively, you are actually de-risking it by creating multiple avenues to success.

Christopher Sorensen, GreenLab Skive
From GreenLab Summit 2022 and final CISKA conference

Enabling a just transition
The public-private partnership model is exactly one of the strengths of GreenLab and the CISKA project. According to the project partners, it is an important factor in driving local support. It ensures that everyone feels heard and involved and that the solutions, frameworks and projects are relevant and just for society.

At UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization), they have kept a close eye on GreenLab Skive and find their partnership model promising in terms of securing a just green transition in developing countries.

UNIDO finds GreenLab interesting as a knowledge partner to join hands with to finetune our model that we are also applying and replicating in developing and transition countries. It’s about green hydrogen industrial clusters, and we are taking on board a lot of the knowledge and the expertise that have been developed in GreenLab. So, we look forward to continuing a cooperation to replicate what has been done by GreenLab but also adapt it to the specific needs that we will find in the different countries where we work,” says Petra Schwager, Chief of Climate and Technology Partnerships at the Directorate on SDG Innovation and Economic Transformation at UNIDO.

She highlights the ownership structure as especially important for a just transition:

Public-private partnerships maintain a significant importance in catalysing and driving a just energy transition and sustainable development.  We need to have all partners on board to reap the multiple benefits offered by renewable energy and green hydrogen; whereby its production in developing countries should be planned in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.

As part of its Global Programme for Green Hydrogen in Industry, UNIDO developed a green hydrogen industrial cluster model to accelerate the application of locally produced green hydrogen in industrial zones, clusters and parks. This model aims to serve as a roadmap for countries to decarbonise industries and thereby achieve their climate and industrial development goals. Furthermore, its goal is to assist governments in early-stage development and deployment of green hydrogen, thereby catalysing investments and partnerships for its accelerated uptake.

Petra Schwager, UNIDO
From GreenLab Summit 2022 and final CISKA conference

Learn more

CISKA is a project that will be part of developing circular industrial symbiosis parks in Scandinavia. The goal is that the good story and the green transition will spread through best practice processes developed through projects like GreenLab Skive.

Learn more about CISKA here (only in Danish)

GreenLab is an industrial, green business park, a catalyst for technology and a national research centre for renewable energy. Here, the green solutions of the future are developed in collaboration with leading national and international partners. The aim is to export GreenLab’s model of technology and collaboration to the rest of the world. Let’s create a power shift!

Learn more about Green Lab here.

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