Germany’s Energy Self-Sufficient Town Offers Clean Energy Blueprint

A small village – population 125 – in the former East Germany is serving as an example of clean, efficient energy to countries from the US to North Korea, according to Reuters.

Feldheim is a 60-minute drive south of Berlin and Germany’s first and only energy self-sufficient village town. No coal or gas is burned. Instead a mix of 43 wind turbines, a woodchip-fired heating plant and a biogas plant that uses cattle and pig slurry and maize silage (a kind of livestock feed comprised of finely-chopped corn) fuels everything in the tiny hamlet.

Local energy costs of about 21 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) are just a little more than half of the 38-40 cents Germans pay on average. To put it in context, the rates are not that different from those in Poland, which generates nearly all its electricity from carbon-intensive coal-fired plants.

The Feldheim project is a small part of changes in energy production across Germany, which is aimed at shifting from coal and nuclear power to cleaner and safer forms of fuel. Germany will phase out nuclear power by 2022. The country of more than 80 million aims to derive 80 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050.

Charles Whall, a fund manager at asset manager Investec, said that target date was technically possible but could prove difficult because of the high cost and the need for back-up generation capacity to offset swings in renewable energy supply

The transformation of energy production will cost about $709 billion through 2050, making it a costly challenge. Last year German consumers paid almost $22 billion extra for energy, including subsidies used to encourage renewable energy generation.

Feldheim’s low energy bills reflect subsidies and other investments. In cutting their links to the regional grid provided by German utility E.ON. homeowners in the town agreed to pay about $3800 in connection fees for new power and gas lines. The village received more than one million dollars in European Union and government funds to help cover the $2.8-million cost of new pipelines. The local agricultural cooperative agreed to use about 865 acres of land to plant corn for the biogas plant.

Officials acknowledge all of this backing underscores why Feldheim may not be a model that works for large cities around the world, or even across the country.

A handful of other communities around the world are also aiming for energy independence. Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City project, designed to be the world’s first carbon-neutral, zero-waste city, is among the most prominent. However, its 2019 debut has been delayed until 2025.  Officials there concede it may need external energy sources to sustain itself.

To read the full Reuters article cited in this story, click here

Tags: Policy

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