The principle behind a citizens’ energy network is simple. Citizens establish a company and run a renewable energy network together. For example, they can lease roofs on which they install solar power systems. As co-owners of the company, the citizens have co-determination and controlling rights. Operating companies can be established in various forms, such as a limited liability partnership (GmbH & Co. KG) or a partnership as provided for in the German Civil Code (GbR).
Projects and ideas that might not be feasible for an individual can be realised in a group by consolidating capital and know-how. The whole community also benefits from the value added. Citizens receive leasing fees for the space used, trade businesses set up and maintain the systems, and the municipality benefits from tax revenues.
A large portion of renewable energy generation in Germany is already in citizen hands. In Baden-Württemberg exist about 150 citizens’ energy collectives with more than 37,000 people participating.
Green energy villages
Green energy villages are towns, cities, or city districts that meet their own heat and electricity needs with green energy. Residents autonomously provide electricity and heat generated from organic matter.
Energy production in a green energy village might look like this: biomass is made into methane gas in farmers’ biogas plants; the gas is then burned in the village’s combined heat and power plant; the electricity and waste heat thus produced can be distributed throughout the village via the local electricity and heat networks. Other sources of renewable energy are also used, such as solar power or solar heat.
Green energy villages also generate significant value added for the local and regional economies. Energy expenditures remain in the region, and local farmers, tradespeople, and construction businesses benefit. There are currently 103 green energy villages in Baden-Württemberg.