'Home-made' electricity creating buzz in Germany

2014-05-27 09:31
Solar panels. (AP)

Solar panels. (AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Berlin - Klaus Meier lists three reasons for generating his own electricity in his family hotel in Germany's southern city of Freiburg, "cost savings, energy efficiency, climate protection".

Like a growing number of German small businesses, home-owners, schools, hospitals and industrial plants, Meier has opted for energy self-sufficiency.

Of the about 600 terawatt hours (TWh) Germany consumes each year, 50TWh are self-produced (about 8% of the total) in a trend that has seen solar panels installed on home roofs and gas plants set up in factories.

In industry, the share is around 20%, according to business and energy consumers groups. Their main goal: cost savings.

Home-made power in Germany, which has among Europe's highest electricity bills, is not taxed unlike conventional electricity where one third of the customer's bill goes into the public coffers.

And neither are the do-it-yourselfers subject to the duties used to subsidise the country's wider "energy transition" away from fossil fuels and nuclear power and toward clean energy.

Ten years ago Meier fitted his four-star hotel, the 45-room Park Hotel Post, set in a 19th century building, with a gas-fuelled power-and-heat cogeneration unit.

It cost him nearly $68 000, but Meier said "the investment paid for itself even faster than I had expected".

Big business

It's a trend adopted long ago by German big business, who value both the self-sufficiency and the lower cost.

"If the power we produce ourselves in Ludwigshafen was taxed, it would cost half a million euros", said Kurt Bock, head of chemical giant BASF, which runs three gas power plants on its site in southwestern Germany.

The automaker Daimler has invested over $54.6m in a new gas turbine for its plant in Sindelfingen, its largest production site. The investment will allow it to increase its power output there by 44%.

"This reduces our dependence on external suppliers and allows us to increase security of supply and predictability of our costs", plant manager Willi Reiss said last year.

According to a survey of some 2 400 companies conducted last year by the German Chamber of Commerce, nearly half have either made, initiated or are planning measures to provide themselves with electricity.

Besides the financial argument, security of supply is an oft-cited reason.

Renewables such as wind and solar represent an ever increasing share of German electricity production, but the output is fickle, depending on weather conditions.

Although the lights haven't gone out yet in Germany despite the most dire warnings, the grid is becoming less stable.


The "self-producers" are helping decentralise power production, a key aspect of Germany's ambitious energy transition, which was accelerated with a decision to shutter nuclear plants after Japan's 2011 Fukushima disaster.

On a much smaller scale, many families have placed solar panels on their roofs, especially in the country's more sun-blessed south.

The share of self-generated electricity in households more than doubled between 2011 and 2012, although it still makes up for only half a percent of total domestic consumption.

For the traditional power companies, they represent new competition but also offer them an opportunity "to become a service provider" by passing on advice and technical solutions, said Thomas Kusterer, chief financial officer of Germany's third biggest energy company, EnBW.

Not everyone likes the trend of power-users going off the grid.

"I understand those who do it, as long as the laws are as they are", said Hildegard Mueller of BDEW, the German association of energy and water industries, which represents producers' interests and calls for fewer incentives for self-production.

But she said that self-producers "are detached from the community, leaving it to others to bear the costs of the energy transition".
Read more on:    germany  |  renewable energy

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.