German grassroots energy alliance

Several German grassroots and co-operative energy groups have set up an alliance to represent independent local and renewables producers who are seen as threatened by a planned reform to the Renewable Energies Act (EEG).

The BBEn alliance will form a nationwide lobby group. It claims that roughly half of the green electricity produced in the country comes from citizen-owned installations, making grassroots producers one of the main pillars of Germany’s Energiewende – its turnaround from nuclear to renewable power.

Yet citizens’ energy producers, despite representing more than a million of Germany’s citizens who are pushing the Energiewende forward, have not had a unified voice to make their interest heard in Berlin, the BBEn claims.

“It is our aim to give the citizens’ energy a forceful voice in the political Berlin,” explains founding member Ursula Sladek, who set up one of Germany’s first independent RE providers in Schönau, Baden-Württemberg state, right after the 1986 nuclear disaster in Chernobyl.

Plans by German energy minister Sigmar Gabriel to reform the EEG contain measures to force independent and small energy producers to market their electricity directly, as well as to phase in tenders for renewables projects.

That undermines the idea of an energy transition from below and will lead to a concentration of power generation among larger players, warns HermannFalk, managing director of Germany’s renewables federation (BEE), which is another founding member of the BBEn.

An outline for the reform of the EEG as approved by the cabinet last week contains “not a single word on citizens’ energy, not a single word on decentralisation”, Falk complains.

“It is an insidious exit from the EEG,” he says. The legislation is considered to have helped small energy producers through its system of feed-in tariffs and a priority for renewables to enter Germany’s electricity markets.