About this good practice
The German city of Ettlingen is an excellent example of participatory democracy. In line with Baden Württemberg's 2050 target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90 %, the city is actively and ambitiously involving its citizens.
The city founded its own utility company, Stadtwerke Ettlingen (SWE), back in 1862. As a 100 % municipal affiliated company with the business areas of ecological supply with electricity and natural gas, potable water, regenerative heat, as well as the operation of swimming pools, a conference center and other services, the municipal utility plays a decisive role in the implementation of the local energy transition and the achievement of climate protection goals.
Through the citizens’ cooperative BürgerEnergiegenossenschaft Karlsruhe Ettlingen (BEG), citizens are taking part in the actions to achieve the 2050 target. Every resident who is a member of the cooperative can choose the amount they would like to invest in the expansion of renewable energies in their area.
The "day-to-day business", consisting among other things of site search, facility planning and management, membership administration and accounting activities, is managed by three directors and very committed members, all working on a voluntary basis.
At the end of 2020, the BEG had 320 members and had financed the construction of 33 PV plants, all of which are managed by the Stadtwerke Ettlingen. And the trend is rising!
Every citizen in Ettlingen can become a member. A membership share is 100 €, a maximum of 10 shares can be purchased. The 3 board members work on a voluntary basis.
Evidence of success
BEG has steadily increased the number of installed PV systems. Starting with 3 plants (118 kWp) in 2013, there are 33 plants with 1,423 kWp by the end of 2020. The number of members has also grown to over 300.
The equity capital rose from € 1.2 million to over € 2 million in the same period. In recent years, an interest rate of 2% could be paid.
The members are very committed to the energy transition; the voluntary commitment was valued at an ideal equivalent of around € 35,000.
Potential for learning or transfer
The EU RES Directive encourages the construction of citizen energy systems. In Ettlingen, we can already look back on 10 years of experience. The threshold for joining is very low, a membership share costs 100 €, and is associated with relatively little risk, because an obligation to make additional contributions is excluded by the statutes.
Each member of the BEG has one vote, no matter how many shares he or she owns. This gives the vote of each individual citizen a high value and increases motivation.
One of the main reasons for joining is the will to drive forward the energy transition as a community with renewable energies, because they bear responsibility for future generations and the environment.
The approach is very easily transferable, it can also be used for the construction of other renewable energy plants and even for the implementation of energy efficiency measures or district heating systems.