Energy democracy, not corporate welfare
German coop organization DGRV, solar association BSW and renewables NGO AEE presented the latest figures on energy coops last week. The number of members alone rose by around 50 percent over the last year.
In Germany, energy cooperatives are a way for citizens – especially those who do not own property – to get involved in the energy transition. Citizens come together to purchase shares in large wind turbines, biomass units, district heat networks, and solar arrays. And according to the latest figures, coops are booming.
The two organizations say that coops now have some 130,000 members, 90 percent of whom are individual citizens (small local businesses can also be involved, but out-of-towners and large corporations often cannot join). Last year, the figure was estimated at 80,000 members – a clear sign that coops are booming. More than 1.2 billion euros has already been invested, and the coops produce enough power alone to serve 160,000 households.
The organizations stress the social component of coops. “This is not a privilege of the wealthy,” explains the DGRV’s Eckhard Ott. “Shares sometimes start at less than 100 euros,” though generally the smallest amounts are commonly closer to 1,000 euros.
The survey also found that the projects now have a high equity rate of around 50 percent. Essentially, the coops use member contributions are equity for bank loans to cover the rest of the investment needed. A ration of one third equity to two thirds borrowed capital is considered healthy, but coops are now pushing bank loans back and going for direct ownership.
Going forward, 53 percent of the existing coops say they plan to invest in new solar projects, while 41 percent are looking into wind farms.
With solar power now much cheaper than retail power rates (the latest FITs for solar range from around 10 to 15 cents per kWh, compared to an average retail rate of 27 cents), the coops are also increasingly looking into direct sales of power. (Craig Morris)