Wolfhagen is a small, idyllic German town of 13,276 (2015) residents in a space of 112 km2 located in the Kassel District of the Federal State of Hesse. For the last ten years, Wolfhagen has become increasingly known nationally and internationally for its success in implementing 100% renewable energy. An increasing number of energy mandates, expenditures, and challenges have created an additional financial burden for Wolfhagen. RE projects provided a solution to this problem and resulted in the creation of new jobs in this field. A strong motivation behind Wolfhagen´s RE strategy has been to eliminate its dependence on fossil fuels and external energy suppliers, and to keep revenues within the region and benefit citizens directly.
A primary milestone for the city´s energy transition was reached in 2003 when the council decided to repurchase the electricity grid. Three years later this decision led to the “remunicipalization” of the grid by the municipally owned utility, Stadtwerke Wolfhagen. In 2008, Stadtwerke organized an excursion to a wind farm for representatives of all local political parties and less than four weeks later the sitting council officially adopted the goal of 100% RE electricity supply by 2015.
As a result, a broad participatory process was launched by the municipal administration with several stakeholders from the local forestry industry and businesses, as well as with conservationists. In keeping with the political commitment to ensure citizens directly benefit from RE investments, the citizen-based energy cooperative BürgerEnergieGenossenschaft Wolfhagen was founded in 2012. In addition to this, the German Renewable Energy Act, the national legal framework, also enabled rapid realization of the projects.
In regards to technology, Wolfhagen´s 100% renewable strategy is centered on a newly installed Windpark Rödeser Berg and Solarpark Gasterfeld, a biomass and biogas plant owned by local farmers, and many private household production systems. It is also interesting to stress that a nationally unique feature of Wolfhagen´s energy portfolio is that the local citizen energy cooperative holds a 25% share in the municipally owned utility Stadtwerke Wolfhagen. This unusual partnership between cooperative and municipal utility fosters democratization of energy production and fair distribution of benefits.
Harmonizing supply with demand will be a key focus in Wolfhagen´s mid-term 100% renewable energy strategy. The goal is to establish a smart network that links households to the municipal utility which would optimize household devices, for example, at times when a lot of wind and sun energy is transmitted to the grid. That means Stadtwerke Wolfhagen would signal to household devices that they should start up and take advantage of lower-priced wind and sun-generated electricity. A pilot project of 35 households is underway with the intention of developing an evidence-based business model. Further mid- and long-term efforts of Wolfhagen towards renewables will include other energy-intensive sectors such as mobility and transportation.
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Thursday, February 18th, 2016