German clean energy co-ops hit development buffers

A third of the sector has no developments planned this year, a survey by DGRV found

A survey by the German Cooperative and Raiffeisen Confederation (DGRV) found that a third the country’s energy co-ops have no new projects planned for this year.

DGRV warns this is “an alarming signal for the energy transition”, affecting 34% of the 835 energy cooperatives in Germany. 

It adds that the problem is particularly evident when it comes to the key activity, solar power generation. Last year, 54% of the co-ops were planning projects in this area; this has fallen to 38%. This continues a decline from the 2017 figure of 72%.

“This development is worrying,” said Dr Eckhard Ott, CEO of the DGRV. “It is energy co-operatives and other models of citizen participation that strengthen local acceptance for the energy transition. An impending standstill in business activity is currently endangering this commitment.”

DGRV says the main reason for the drop in development is the changed framework conditions for photovoltaics. 

Around 80% of German energy co-ops operate solar power systems, having enjoyed low investment cost, alongside a fixed remuneration and market premium under the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), which makes financial risks easier to manage. 

But in recent years, low market prices mea it has not been an option to sell solar power directly on the electricity market.

“Fortunately, the federal government has sharpened the goals for climate protection,” said Dr Ott. “The legislature is now called upon to improve the framework conditions for public participation by intensifying the expansion of renewable energies.”

Germany’s energy co-operatives, with 200,000 members between them, have invested a total of 3.2 billion euros in renewable energies and generated around 8.8 TWh of clean electricity in 2020, the survey adds. 

This saved around 3 million tons of CO2 equivalents in the electricity sector. In addition, 110,000 tons of CO2 equivalents were saved in the heating sector, thanks to the use of co-op heat networks to supply around 18,000 households.

Click here to see the survey.