This week a fact finding tour has brought me to Germany to view successful examples of community energy in action. With the UK at an energy crossroads, facing major strategic decisions about how to generate energy in a sustainable way, the Co-operative, Forum for the Future and Carbon Leapfrog have organised a Discover Community Energy tour to provide insights from the German experience which has reinvigorated communities through clean energy projects.
The first day of the 3 day mission was spent in Schonau where the towns' folk bought the grid and set up a co-operatively owned renewable energy company, currently supplying 115,000 households. This all came about when one mother, Ursula Sladek, was so moved by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that she was determined to find an alternative way to provide energy and achieve a nuclear free future.
Having its own grid meant power could be purchased from renewable sources. The town was divided, initially, with a local jam manufacturer for the scheme and a local plastics manufacturer against it. But when the Schonau Church decided to set an example and cover the roof with Photovoltaic cells the majority of the town made a contribution providing the catalyst for the whole scheme to get the go ahead. As with so many community driven schemes and projects, impassioned individuals provide the vision and driving force for success. An inspiring first day!
You can follow the tour on twitter: #communityenergy or at: www.forumforthefuture.org