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Rural Energy Community Advisory Hub

The landscape of Energy Cooperatives in Germany

Solar plant


National Office for Energy Cooperatives’ role

Germany is a county with a long history of cooperatives, but energy cooperatives (ECs) are a relatively new concept that has emerged in the last 16 years. Their number has grown rapidly, increasing from eight in 2006 to one hundred and ninety-four in 2021.

Germany’s cooperative law came into effect in 1889 and covers all cooperatives, ranging from banking to agricultural. Since then, there have been organisations established to support cooperatives in understanding the legal structure requirements and adhere to this legal form.

In 2011, to support the rapidly emerging ECs, the National Office for Energy Cooperatives, part of DGRV (the German Cooperative Confederation), was set up. It is currently offering support to comply with the changes made to the European Commission’s RED II directive in 2021, which now includes a legal definition of an EC.

As well as supporting ECs to understand the laws that apply to them, the National Office for Energy Cooperatives represents their interests in the federal political debate, supports them to develop business models and implement projects, and strives for a transfer of knowledge and best practices.


Statistics relating to German ECs

Mr Benjamin Dannemann from the National Office for Energy Cooperatives shared with us some of the statistics from 2021, relating to German ECs which you can find below:

  • 914 renewable ECs
  • 220,000 members
  • €3.3 billion invested so far in renewable energy
  • 3 million tons of CO2 emissions prevented in 2021
  • 8 Twh community-owned electricity generation in 2021
  • 3.5 % share of the total renewable electricity generation in Germany
  • 95% of members are individuals, 4% are companies and banks and 1% are farmers


Case studies

He also provided the three examples below of successful energy communities that are in line with the EU law and the definition of an EC.

Energiegenossenschaft Odenwald eG, a community founded in 2009, now has over 3000 members from the Odenwaldkreis, a district in the south of Hesse. So far there has been €50 million invested into 83 solar plants installed on rooftops and in fields. They also deal with regional development including building energy-efficient properties and community spaces.

Climate Community Saerbeck has had a community-owned decentralised energy grid since 2012 and is aiming to achieve 100% renewable energy production for the 7200 inhabitants by 2030. The community generates energy from:

  • Photovoltaic investments by the citizen energy cooperative and projects of private households.
  • Wind-energy investments by the community-owned company and citizen cooperative.
  • Biomass and biowaste plants run by farmers, making it one of the most advanced organic waste processing plants in Europe through energy and compost generation. The Biogas facilities produce electricity that feeds into the grid and heat supplied to all public buildings in their high school and sports complex.

They also run an energy education programme for students.

WeilerWärme eG is a community that is introducing innovative activities such as car sharing and investment in infrastructure for e-mobility within the 700-member community. It was founded in 2008 and has investments in photovoltaics as well as biomass district heating.

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