Germany’s bioenergy communities – some 200 of them – are the hidden champions of Energy Transition. They offer inspiring examples of how citizens can work together with local companies and politicians to generate their heat and electrical needs from biogas plants, wood, solar and wind. For the last five years, The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) has recognised best practices with the Bioenergy Communities competition.
All the winners of the 2019 award (presented at International Green Week in Berlin in January 2020), demonstrated innovative approaches to improving energy efficiency, which included sector coupling (i.e. integrating energy consuming sectors such as buildings and transport with power producers), storage and flexible use. Many bioenergy villages already generate more than 100 percent of their energy from renewables or biomatter. In practice, however, there are phases of under- and oversupply due to the irregularity of the energy source.
One of the winners, Fuchstal-Leeder (pop. 1,700) in Bavaria, plans to test the new ‘power-to-heat’ approach, which converts excess electricity into heat and then parks it in large storage facilities until it is needed. The progressive community also plans to build flexibility into its biogas plant so that it can adapt to fluctuating demand.
The village of Asches in Lower Saxony (pop. 300) already has a biogas plant, but it won an award for switching its plant to a ‘heat-controlled’ basis so that it can better supply the local heating network. The third winner, the community of Mengsberg (pop. 840), was chosen for building Germany’s largest cooperative solar thermal plant, which will provide full heat in the summer and partial heat in winter.
The ‘pioneers’ each received EUR 10,000 at the event from Uwe Feiler, Parliamentary State Secretary to the BMEL, who praised them for being ‘committed to climate protection and renewable energies.’