The History and Future of the Community-Owned Energy Utility in Germany

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In April 2019, the southwestern German city of Schwäbisch Hall held a press event to announce that the local utility had reached its goal of 100% renewable electricity. To make this ambition a reality, the utility — Stadtwerke Schwäbisch Hall — had built wind farms, solar arrays, and biomass plants to now be able to fully power the whole region’s electricity use with renewables. As if this announcement wasn’t enough, at the same event, Stadtwerke Schwäbisch Hall inaugurated a new high-efficiency turbine to provide the city with heat, looking towards the utility’s next goal: 100% renewable heating by 2030 (SWP).

Cutting our carbon emissions means transforming how our buildings use energy — and how quickly we renovate them

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(Second part of a two-article series on building upgrades and climate. Part one covers current programs and needs in Germany’s work on energy efficiency.)

Buildings are one of the biggest challenges we face in tackling climate change, with the energy used to power and heat our homes and offices representing approximately one-third of carbon emissions in the US and EU. While new buildings are becoming more efficient, our existing buildings are the far greater challenge, since they will continue to make up the vast majority of our building stock at midcentury (BPIE). Addressing this challenge means scaling up our efforts…

Lessons from Germany in the uphill battle to make buildings more energy efficient

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(First part in a two-article series on building upgrades and climate)

One of the big challenges we face as we work to tackle our carbon emissions is our buildings. The power needed to run appliances and ACs, the gas and oil keeping buildings warm in the winter — the energy used in our homes and offices is one of the biggest sources of our greenhouse gas emissions. Over 30% of the US’s carbon emissions and about 35% of the EU’s emissions are attributed to buildings (EPA, EC).

We are doing better with our new buildings: stricter energy codes and advanced…

The targeted strategy of Germany’s hydrogen pilot projects and national hydrogen plan

There are few technologies that have been hyped as much for their climate-saving possibilities as hydrogen has been. In the early 2000's, hydrogen was touted as a futuristic fuel for cars, a way to reduce dependence on foreign oil, and literally a “way to save America.” Of course, few of these predictions came true, and, if anything, mostly worked as a political tool to avoid making actual energy and climate commitments.

So with multiple countries now working on national hydrogen strategies, it would only be natural to be a bit skeptical, given the history with the imagined silver bullet that…

A look at Germany’s structured approach to energy transformation and decarbonizing buildings

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As we work to rapidly cut our carbon emissions in the coming years, buildings represent one of the next big challenges of tackling climate change, especially the energy we use to heat them (as covered in a previous article). Taking on this challenge will require a combination of innovative technology, policy, and programming. Looking at Germany’s well-known Energiewende can provide a good framework for US cities, states, and regions in thinking about decarbonizing buildings.

Much has been written about Energiewende, Germany’s national set of strategies for the energy transition. A key part of the country’s climate commitments, Energiewende receives a…

Heat is a huge part of our carbon emissions, and the path forward requires thoughtful planning, starting today

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If you’ve read about climate and energy policy ideas in recent years, you’ve probably seen how cities, states, and countries around the world have been stepping up their efforts on renewable energy, spurred on by the need to cut emissions dramatically in the next decade. Communities are setting targets or making pledges for getting to 100% renewable electricity, and more than a few of the presidential candidates in the US pledged to get to ‘100% clean power’ by 2030 or 2035.

Zeroing out our emissions from power plants is an incredibly important goal, and it’s an ambitious one that will…

Nikhil Nadkarni

Cities + climate + energy transformation

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