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German Environmental Group Praises Municipal Utilities as the Pioneers of the German Energy Transition

Posted 21 March 2013 6:34 PM by Lettemieke Mulder

Local municipal utilities can play an important role in increasing solar PV’s share in the electricity mix. In Germany, local utilities are proving to be the engine behind the energy transition towards renewables.

Late last year, First Solar partnered with the German Environmental Aid organization Deutsche Umwelthilfe e.V. (DUH) to launch “Pioneers of the Energy Transition: Municipal Utilities and Renewable Energy,” a competition designed to engage and recognize local energy suppliers for their commitment to renewable energy. The competition was organized in cooperation with the Renewable Energy Agency, the Association of Municipal Utilities (VKU) and the German Association of Cities and Towns.

Winners, announced in January of 2013, included the cities of Freiburg, Friedberg, Hassfurt and Schwäbisch Hall. The four cities were praised for their exemplary approach towards integrating renewable energy and boosting energy efficiency at the local level.

DUH
Freiburg, Germany, was one of four cities recognized for local municipality leadership in integrating renewable energy into the utility grid. Freiburg’s Vauban neighborhood was the first housing community in the world to apply comprehensive sustainable construction practices, including a reliance on distributed solar power systems that feed into the local grid. First Solar contributed to Freiburg’s efforts, and sponsored DUH’s 2012 design competition.

“Many municipal utilities are not only in charge of managing their own production facilities, but also oversee their power and heat networks,” said DUH Director Michael Spielmann. “They are therefore the first to implement the energy transition locally through energy efficiency and the integration of renewable energy sources in particular."

“Local energy suppliers are increasingly investing in decentralized combined heat and power plants and renewable energy systems, added VKU Director Hans-Joachim Reck. “This enables independence from the four major utilities and creates financial profits for the municipal budget.”

For many of these cities, the commitment to renewable energy is not a new concept. A few years ago, the city of Freiburg was awarded DUH’s “Bundeshauptstadt im Klimaschutz” (Climate Protection City of the Year) honors. First Solar donated the winning prize of a 30 kWp system of First Solar PV modules. Freiburg has since continued its commitment to the environment.

Stefan Degener, First Solar’s Managing Director and Head of Sales in Europe, believes that ecology and the economy must go hand in hand for a future-oriented energy supply. “The utilities play a crucial role in achieving this,” Degener explained. “Alongside economic profits, concrete measures to reduce greenhouse gases and increase energy savings are gaining importance. Photovoltaic solar power plants are already contributing significantly to this and should continue to be an essential part of the energy mix.”

Starting in March, First Solar will sponsor a series of workshops to share best practices with interested stakeholders and utilities. For more information, visit http://www.duh.de/stadtwerkewettbewerb.html.