The future of community ownership in Germany
A proposed change would make it more difficult for communities to form energy co-ops in Germany. The sector has responded with a renewed call for a focus on community ownership.
The German government has drawn a lot of attention for its proposals to fundamentally reform German feed-in tariffs, but this proposal has remained largely under the radar. Last month, the German Finance Ministry proposed changes to the Capital Investments Act which would make it harder for citizen-owned energy co-ops to do their work.
As our colleagues at Solar Server explain (in German), the Finance Ministry apparently wishes to provide the same kind of investor protection for cooperatives as is provided for international banks. In particular, the Ministry wants to focus on diversifying risk; in the case of energy cooperatives, investments in single wind turbines or solar arrays would no longer be considered adequately diversified. A lot of energy cooperatives come together to build a single wind turbine, solar array, or biomass facility.
In addition, such projects are only possible because they are eligible for special loans from the German government's KfW bank, but the Finance Ministry now wishes to put a limit on the share of such loans (40 percent). The Ministry is apparently blindly applying the rules for risky investments to much smaller investments with very little risk – thanks to German feed-in tariffs.
The renewables community has until mid-May to respond, and on Friday a group of organizations came together under the "Energy in the hands of citizens" campaign (website in German) to remind everyone that citizen investments in renewables have outstripped investments made by large utilities more than sevenfold (up to the end of 2011). The campaign calls on citizens to sign an Energiewende Charta and become involved in the political debate to ensure that everyone remembers that Germany's energy transition has always been driven by citizens, not large utilities and corporations. (Craig Morris)