How a German Town is Cooperating to Solve its Energy Needs

A small town in the center of Germany has given the world a model for how to generate power on their terms. It all started back in 2005 in Wolfhagen, Germany when the city’s government decided not to renew a contract agreement with private company E.ON. The city and the people decided they would instead generate power through a public company – Stadtwerke Wolfhagen.

Things progressed in 2008 when everyone decided that by 2015, all household electricity will be provided from local renewable resources. The town committed to building a wind farm and solar park. To help pay for the project, the town decided to enlist the help of the citizens for a co-owned, co-produced energy system. This form of cooperative participation would allow the community to take part in a citizen-led movement, BürgerEnergieGenossenschaft, (BEG Wolfhagen), for a clean renewable town.

Martin Rühl, Director of the public company explained in 2011:

“Through the cooperative participation, we want to make the citizens not only co-owners and co-earners but through the form of direct participation in the Stadtwerke, also co-decisionmakers. For future projects, citizens and electricity customers will be at the table from the very beginning.”

The co-op was official back in 2012 by citizens that were in favor of the wind farm, and now they own 25% of the energy company. The more than 800 citizens who are members, are part of a company with a net worth of €3.9 million and are also involved in the decision-making process. Two of the co-op’s nine board members represent the citizens with voting rights on all issues. These include electricity production and supply for the region, along with energy prices and reinvestment.

The cooperative also has an energy-saving fund that receives funds directly from the profitable energy company. The fund is designed to support citizen-led initiatives and strategies for increasing energy efficiency, including innovative ways for achieving decarbonization.

As the original report states, this shows that the rapid decarbonization of our energy supply is wholly compatible with new models of economic democracy. “Strong and effective action to address the climate crisis can be met through processes of collective empowerment, without resorting to ecological authoritarianism.”

Instead of focusing on the bottom line of profits, which privately-owned companies do, this hybrid model involves the common interest of the community. We are in the middle of the most important climate crisis in human history. As humans, we cannot, and certainly should not sit back and allow a select few who have money to make decisions for all. It’s not about an uprising against power, instead of working together. This will take some of the pressure off of the governments from having to do everything, and it allows the common people to become more involved. Putting their money into things to help the planet, rather than “taxes,” that are a big mystery where that money goes. Global warming affects everyone, it’s time “everyone” has a say in how we go about rectifying it.

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