Samsø, Denmark's Renewable Energy Island since 1997, is world renowned for being self-sufficient in renewable energy and for having achieved energy self-sufficiency and CO2 neutrality through successful processes of public participation. In this article I seek to show how these processes of public participation so central to the Renewable Energy Island project can be better understood as instances of material participation motivated first and foremost by a concern for the future of the island as a 'liveable' community; a community in which jobs and institutions are not constantly threatening to disappear. By turning to material participation, a concept inspired by Noortje Marres and Jennifer Gabrys, the efforts put into Samsø’s energy transformation by the islanders are given specificity. While much literature on public participation foregrounds public meetings and other spaces for deliberation and debate, material participation locates participation in everyday practice and work. On Samsø, the islanders’ participation was not an add-on to the project, it was an indispensable resource in itself. Building on extensive fieldwork I analyse how the islanders came to invest their time and resources in the Renewable Energy Island project, highlighting how, by materializing energy in concrete, local projects, energy and climate change-related projects can gain community-strengthening potentialities reaching beyond goals of energy self-sufficiency.
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