Urban Alternatives is launched by a collaboration of different actors which are united in their efforts to create a more democratic, just and sustainable world. This map seeks to highlight initiatives that work towards this goal. Proposal for initiatives not listed yet can be made directly on the website. This process is open to new collaborations.


Wolfhagen BEG

Democratic Remunicipalization

What challenges did this initiative look to address?

In 2008, a decision was made by the Wolfhagen municipality - a town of 14,000 - to ensure that the town ran on 100% renewable energy by 2015. However, the financing of such an energy transition was prohibitive. This was coupled with the broader issues of how to increase energy efficiency and reduce energy usage more generally.

What has changed?

Wolfhagen succesfully met its target of producing 100% of it's energy demand from renewable sources by 2015, including the development of a large solar park. Whilst this was a key objective, the cooperation between the Stadtwerke and the cooperative has allowed for projects tackling future challenges.

One example is a scheme that the Stadtwerke is piloting to offer a range of electricity rates to selected households. The price offered to these households is calculated on the basis of the weather forecast and the resulting production by the solar panels and the wind turbines, plus the prices on the wholesale electricity market. The electricity rates are calculated and adjusted for a 48-hour period and then communicated directly to the customers. Thanks to the intelligent household appliances provided, they can plan to increase their electricity demand at the times of day when electricity is abundant and therefore cheapest. The scheme therefore creates incentives to match energy consumption and production.

Meanwhile, the cooperative is pioneering a series of innovative approaches to reducing energy usage via its energy savings fund. Cooperative members currently receive a grant for the purchase of energy-efficient appliances, the purchase of programmable radiator thermostats and on-site energy advice. Since 2014, more than 130 members have submitted applications for the purchase of new household appliances with the highest energy efficiency class and have been reimbursed up to ten percent of the initial costs, up to a maximum of 50 euros. The cooperative also promotes the purchase of electric bikes, subsidising up to 10 percent of the purchase price or €150 per member.

How did it happen?

Wolfhagen had taken the electicity grid under municipal control in 2006, with the formation of the Stadtwerke Wolfhagen. Following the 2008 decision, the municipality succesfully developed plans for a large wind-farm, a proposal supported by the citizen-led campaign group "ProWind". Partly driven by insufficient finances to drive the energy transition, and partly driven by a vision of a coproduced and co-owned energy system, the director of the Stadtwerke Martin Rühl proposed the formation of a citizens-cooperative to raise capital and become a co-owner of the municipal utility. In March 2012, 264 citizens founded the cooperative Bürgerensergiegenossenschaft Wolfhagen eG (BEG Wolfhagen), largely drawing on the membership of the succesful campaign group.

All electricity customers of Stadtwerke can become members of the cooperative. Each member is limited to a maximum of 5 shares in the cooperative, at the cost of €500 each. In the first instance, the cooperative share offer raised €1.47million. The cooperative is the second shareholder in the Stadtwerke and its subsidaries, holding a 25% stake valued at €2.3million. Given the shortfall between in value between the cooperative shares and the 25% stake, the city granted the cooperative the option to gradually capitalise its stake. This took around 12 months, with the cooperative fully covering its €2.3million share by the spring of 2013.