Germany holds National Co-operative Energy Congress

Dr Andreas Wieg reports from the country's National Co-operative Energy Congress

Energy co-ops are looking to strengthen their role in Germany’s Energiewende transition to a low-carbon system.

How this can be done was discussed at the National Co-operative Energy Congress, hosted by the National Office for Energy Cooperatives at the German Cooperative and Raiffeisen Association (DGRV) – which has 19.8 million members – and the Cooperative Housing Federation GdW. The event was broadcast from the DZ BANK building in Berlin and followed by 600 viewers. Contributors included federal policymakers, members of parliament and industry experts.

“Energy co-operatives play an important role in the expansion of a secure and renewable local energy supply,” said Thomas Bareiß (parliamentary state secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology) in his speech. “Co-ops promote and enable community involvement as well as direct participation in the Energiewende. With the 2021 amendment to the Renewable Energy Sources Act [EEG], we have once again improved the framework conditions for energy co-operative projects”.

But the co-op sector is critical of new regulations of rooftop solar. “The de facto reduction of the limit for photovoltaic tenders will push energy co-op and other citizen energy projects out of the centre of the Energiewende. They will reduce the acceptance for renewable energy onsite,” said Dr Eckhard Ott, CEO of DGRV.

The limit of 750 kWp still applies but for solar systems larger than 300 kWp, only half of the electricity produced is eligible for the EEG compensation (feed-in tariff). The other half can be either used by the operator or sold on the market. But the latter is hardly an option,  says Dr Ott, given the low price of electricity on the electricity stock market. Thus the only viable alternative is to participate in a tender – and large suppliers with several projects have a systematic advantage over energy co-ops.

“More support would have been possible, as the European Commission has explicitly obligated member states to promote energy co-operatives and other energy communities. Unfortunately, these European requirements are not yet reflected in the German Renewable Energy Sources Act,” said Dr Ott. 

Ingeborg Esser, chair of the management board of the German Cooperative Housing Federation (GdW), talked about the 2021 federal election in Germany and the major policy challenges in terms of energy, digitalisation and social affairs.

“Over the next four years, we have to strive to build climate goals that are affordable for all stakeholders,” she said. “At the same time, we need to take advantage of the digital transformation in the housing sector and increase local energy generation from renewable sources. In this context, we are particularly pleased that work is currently under way to remove tax barriers for housing organisations. This contributes to a fair Energiewende.”

In order to relieve the burden on tenants, including many with low incomes, greater participation of the general public in terms of financing climate goals is also necessary to prevent the threat of social inequality. For that reason, the government must make sure that required funds in regards to the federal subsidy for efficient buildings (BEG) are available long term. “If everyone would comply to the climate goals, the funding requirement would equal EUR 25bn a year”, said Ms Esser.

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