Energy Democracy

Strengthen energy cooperatives

What's the problem?

Citizines* have greatly contributed to the expansion of renewable energies. Since 2007 many Neugründungen von Energiegenossenschaften (energy cooperatives) were newly founded, in which collective renewably energy plants were planned, financed and implemented. The fact that the number of newly founded companies declined significantly from 2014 onwards due to the weakening conditions, questions a largely successful part of the German → energy turnaround. After all, a large part of the expansion of renewable energies is due to the commitment of these civic communities.

What's the measure?

Political reforms are necessary to improve the external conditions for energy cooperatives and other civic communities. Since cooperatives manage their members' money, they do not have risk capital and are therefore not in a position to participate on a large scale in tenders for remuneration (read more here). The reforms of the EEG in recent years have made projects more complicated and complex. In order to keep the commitment of citizens* alive or to further encourage it, the framework conditions must be (re)simplified.

How can the implementation look like?

For example, EU regulations allow wind farms below 18 MW to be exempted from the obligation to tender (Quelle (source)) –  If the German Federal Government were to transpose this into national law, cooperatives would be able to implement more projects in this area even without risk capital. The rules also need to be simplified for tenant electricity projects (see Integrated neighborhood supply). At present, it gives the impression that politicians want to put the brakes on decentralized, citizen*-driven energy-turnaround projects instead of supporting them.

How does this work against climate change?

The expansion of renewable energies is a central step when fighting against climate change because they can replace fossil energy sources, which continuously emit greenhouse gases during their use.

Which other effects does the measure have?

Energy cooperatives not only drive the expansion of renewable energies in quantitative terms, but they also have social and economic advantages. Das Bündnis Bürgerenergie hat die Vorteile ausführlich recherchiert und in einer Broschüre zusammengestellt (The Bündnis Bürgerenergie has researched the advantages and complied them in a brochure). This is an overview:

  • Integration into sustainable economic processes: Citizens are reclaiming the decision-making and action options that were previously held by large corporations. They are not guided by profit maximization but place their actions in the context of social motives.
  • Increasing social commitment in the energy sector: The involvement of citizens* and its effects not only have a positive impact on the implementation of concrete renewable energy projects on-site, but also benefit society as a whole.
  • Strengthen the acceptance of renewable energy generation plants: Right in the middle instead of not being there! For the long-term success of the → energy turnaround, a high identification and acceptance are necessary. The acceptance effect arises above all when citizens* are actively involved in decisions and planning at an early stage.
  • Co-determination and transparency: Transparency and co-determination are core components of the cooperative idea: The principle of cooperatives is that every member has one vote - regardless of the amount of his or her contribution. In order to be able to decide on projects jointly, a transparent discussion among the cooperative members is indispensable.
  • Identity building: My house, my community, my green power plant. Anyone who participates directly in → Energiewende (energy turnaround) projects in their community feels a stronger emotional and idealistic connection to the project and their community.
  • Increasing the diversity of participants: The energy market is becoming more democratic and the dominant position of the large energy companies is declining.
  • Realization of certain plants only by citizen* energy: The know-how of the citizens* locally saves costs, which large investors often shy away from.
  • Development and professionalisation of a new economic sector: Citizens become inventors and midwives of the energy revolution.
  • Regional added value: The money of the citizens* works locally and stays in the region.
  • Creation and preservation of jobs: Citizen* energy projects secure and create new jobs. Although a large part of the planning work in the projects has been carried out on a voluntary basis up to now, in the implementation phase, however, "citizen* energy" becomes a job motor. In addition, the work within the energy cooperatives is also being slowly, but steadily, professionalised - the effect of citizen's energy is thus increased by full-time jobs.

How quickly can the measure be implemented and how quickly does it become effective?

The ball definitively is in the field of the politics here. Energy cooperatives have built structures for the last 15 years, with which they have pushed ahead the → energy turnaround despite adverse circumstances. Every improvement in the framework conditions has a direct positive effect, because citizens* can implement their projects more easily, efficiently and economically.