Citizens share in Berlin Energy Grid for sustainable energy
This intervention has been translated into a brief governance scenario. Take a look at Making local energy systems inclusively sustainable - by ourselves, with a little help by friends
- 1 a) Basic characteristics and ambitions of the intervention
- 2 b) Additional basic characteristics, links to earlier UrbanA work
- 3 c) Actor constellations
- 4 d) Enabling conditions for the implementation of the intervention
- 5 e) Obstacles to successful intervention implementation
- 6 f) (Institutional) Work done to overcome obstacles
- 7 g) Reported outcomes
- 8 h) Learning involved in establishing the intervention
- 9 i) Learning involved in establishing interventions elsewhere (transferability)
- 10 j) Structural learning
- 11 k) Reflections on important governance concepts
- 12 Appendix 1: Three modes of governance
- 13 Appendix 2: Policy typology
a) Basic characteristics and ambitions of the intervention
1. What is the name and the urban context (e.g. city/district) of the intervention? Please also indicate the geographical scale of the intervention (e.g. neighborhood, district, small/medium/ capital city, metropolitan area ...). [Example: “Brixton Energy in Brixton, London (a neighborhood in the capital city)”]
The intervention is called BürgerEnergie Berlin (BEB). It is a cooperative that unites citizens in Berlin - the capital and a city-state of Germany - to work together for a sustainable, climate-friendly, and citizen-owned energy system in Berlin. The intervention is at the city level.
2. What sector(s) (alias domain/ policy field) is the intervention primarily implemented in? [e.g. housing, mobility, energy, water, health, local economy, biodiversity, CC adaptation, etc.]
3. What is the intervention (i.e. situated experiment) aiming to achieve in terms of sustainability and justice? [If possible, please copy from a project website and give a reference]
BEB aims to acquire the energy grid of Berlin and change the energy mix towards renewable energy. It intends to promote and support members economically and to build a socially and environmentally compatible, decentralized, inexpensive, nuclear-free sustainable energy system. BEB advocates a climate-friendly, democratic, and solidary energy supply and energy policy in Berlin. The areas under focus include green electricity, energy-saving, citizen power plants, and the Berlin power grid purchase.
4. What is the interventions’ timeframe?
BEB was founded in December 2011 and it is registered in the cooperative register of the district court in Berlin under the number GnR 734. It formally started its groundwork in 2012. Still fighting against a concession to Vattenfall, and to buy a share in the future concessions.
5. By what governance mode is the intervention characterized primarily? (see Appendix 1: Three modes of governance)
BEB could be categorized to have a voluntary governance system - commitment or action beyond legal requirements undertaken by private actors or non-governmental organizations (TESS 4, pg. 25).
6. Why do you consider it worthwhile to study and share experiences made in the context of this governance intervention for sustainable and just cities?
It is an interesting case of citizen's realizing that they themselves could be the better providers of public services, in this case, energy from renewable sources for fair prices. The intervention citizen-based initiative that recommends a hybrid system of governance with an equal say of citizens and a significant share in profit.
7. In which project deliverable(s) or other documents can information be found on this situated (i.e. place specific) governance intervention?
- Deliverable 3.2: Analysis of success factors - summary reports on case study findings.
- Booklet - Community Climate Action across Europe.
8. EU Project-context of the intervention:
- a. Has the intervention been developed or studied in the context of an (EU-funded?) project? (please name the project, its duration and include a link to the project website here).
BEB has been studied by a European project called Towards European Societal Sustainability (TESS). TESS was funded by the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme under grant number 603705 from the year 2013 to 2016. The project was exploring the role of community based initiatives (CBIs) in transitioning to a sustainable and low-carbon Europe.
- b. According to WP3’s database of approaches, which approach(es) does the intervention best fit under? Where applicable, please indicate if the intervention is found in a project that has been explicitly mentioned in the database.
Civil disobedience and Energy & Mobility
- c. Have some project deliverables been coded in the context of UrbanA’s WP4?
9. Problematization and priority:
- a. How exactly has inequality and exclusion been problematized (by whom) in the context of this intervention?
Privatization of energy markets, monopoly of a few private organizations over Berlin’s energy grid and consequent unfair electricity prices in the city has been challenged by the intervention while bringing an alternative democratic, citizen-centered and decentralized energy governance system to bring about change (TESS 4).
- b. Has the achievement of justice explicitly been named as a major motivation behind the intervention?
Yes, justice with regards to fair tariffs and distribution of profits to wider communities instead of one big company is an explicit motivation.
- c. Which drivers of injustice does the intervention address? (see Database of drivers of injustice)
c) Actor constellations
10. Who initiated the intervention?
The initiative was initiated by a group of active citizens concerned with the ways to bring the energy grid under the management of people convinced of the need for a transition to renewable sources of energy (BEB) in 2011. Still fighting against a concession to Vattenfall, and to be sold a share in the future concessionist (TESS 4, pg. 15).
11. Who are the envisioned benefiters of the intervention? (both at a local level and higher, if applicable)
Immediate beneficiaries are the cooperative members, whereas, the wider beneficiaries from fair electricity prices and green energy could be citizens of Berlin.
12. Who else is (going to be) involved in the intervention, and what was/is their main role?
|Actor types||Yes||Actor name and role|
|Academic organizations||Yes||Students of the field of renewable energy as volunteers in their free time|
|Civil society organizations|
|Hybrid/ 3rd sector organizations|
|Social entreprises||Yes||Naturstrom, EMobility, EWS Schönau|
|For profit entreprises||Yes||Supermarkets, StadtwerkeSchwäbisch-Hall|
|Local/regional government||Yes||Local Municipality|
|Other initiatives||Yes||Volunteers, shareholders and local citizens as part of campaigns|
13. Which particular interactions among various stakeholders (stakeholder configurations) were crucial in enabling the intervention to emerge successfully? This could include direct or indirect impacts on interventions.
BEB has a large number of alliances including cooperatives, ethical banks, and renewable energy companies. The cooperative expanded fast in numbers and donations through synergies with the networks established by other energy cooperatives and movements in the field of energy and politics. Schönau Cooperative has been instrumental in the success of BEB by passing on knowledge and expertise. In order to reach out to people and inform them about the cooperative, they worked together with a media network summit called “NetzGipfel” and took part in demonstrations and other events to inform people about their initiative and to get more participants (TESS 4, pg. 113). Besides, BEB would not have been able to establish and grow the way it did without the contribution of volunteers. Most of them are students, mainly graduates from the field of renewable energies but there are also retired people who want to use their free time to help the cooperative.
14. To what extent, in what form and at what stages have citizens participated in the shaping of the intervention?
Citizens have been the founders and drivers. The BEB works on the notion of democratic participation. Any citizen, including citizens from other parts of Germany and even other countries in the EU could be the members of BEB with amounts starting at 100 euros (TESS 4, pg.17)
15. How are responsibilities and/or decision-making power distributed among actors?
BEB has a pyramid structure with only a few people on the top, consisting of founders and highly engaged people, and a broad base of members involved in the daily work. It has groups of volunteers and general assemblies, allowing for the participation of all members. However, it also has some key individuals who are driving the evolution of the organization through careful planning and more strategic actions. Every member of the cooperative has votes for different levels of decisions depending on the number of shares purchased. BEB’s cooperative's supervisory board is elected through voting that decides on the use of profits, ways to deal with losses, and general trend-setting decisions about BEB that are made at the general assembly (TESS 5, pg. 31).
- a. Which stakeholders or social groups were excluded (at which stages)?
Non-German speakers and those who could not buy 5 shares (each cost 100 Euros) to be part of BEB’s decision-making process (TESS 5, pg.25). BEB members who have financially contributed to the project by purchasing a minimum share of 500€, are more influential. The members who cannot afford that cost are excluded from certain decisions (TESS 5, pg. 31).
- b. Is there any indication why this may have happened? With what outcomes? Has anything been done to overcome such exclusions?
The cooperative is German-based and therefore it uses the language of natives. Regarding the financial matter, it highly depends on its members’ shares to buy a share in the Berlin energy grid. As a result, members with greater financial contributions have a greater say in decision making.
d) Enabling conditions for the implementation of the intervention
17. What circumstances or events are reported to have triggered the intervention? (In what ways?)
BEB was driven by civil discontent and frustration with a profit-oriented company - Vattenfall - owning the energy grid in Berlin. Over the past decades, the governance of electricity grids in German municipalities has been shaped by liberalization processes. In the 1990s Berlin took a leading role in the privatization of public assets due to the city’s financial crisis post-reunification. The city failed to install appropriate monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for the emerging hybrid service provision systems. This has resulted in poor performance on regional innovation and environmental modernization, along with limited economic benefits for the city. Consequently, growing discontent with private utility ownership and an increase in awareness of the potential financial benefits to be gained from grid operations have given rise to a resurgence of ideas around community management. One of the principal actors in the resurgence a roundtable organization campaigning for the remunicipalisation of Berlin’s power utility. The campaign to force the city government to regain control of the power grid and create a municipal power utility began in 2010.
18. Are particular substantive (multi-level) governmental policies considered to be highly influential in the genesis and shaping of the intervention? (If easily possible, please specify the policy, the policy field and the governance level mainly addressed, and characterize it along Appendix 2: Policy typology)
BEB started in response to a change in the allocation procedure in the Berlin power system which opened the possibility of buying and operating the Berlin energy grid. BEB benefited from Energietisch (plebiscite held in 2013 which voted in favor of remunicipalisation (83%) but missed the threshold of total numbers in favor of the remunicipalisation.) and the new allocation procedure for the Berlin power system (Strombetriebskonzession – current operating license). It took advantage of the window of opportunity, challenging single dichotomies of public versus private management by introducing a citizen-owned management partner (TESS 4, pg. 15). Other policies shaping the intervention may include the German feed and tariff program (came into force in 2000) to achieve renewable energy goals of 40-45% by 2025 and 55-60% by 2035, followed by the EU Renewable Energy Directive 2009 that sets rules for its member countries to achieve 20% of renewable energy by 2020 (TESS 4, pg. 32).
19. What constitutional responsibilities and rules does the intervention build upon? In other words, what rights, powers, and/or responsibilities, does the country's constitution (in a broad sense) award municipalities, states, utilities, NGOs, citizens, etc. and how does this impact the intervention?
The initiative has been founded on the basis of the right to hold a plebiscite/referendum and the constitutional right to freedom of assembly (Art. 8) and association (Atr. 9). Moreover, BEB was launched to strengthen democratic participation and achieve a more progressive climate policy (TESS 5, Pg. 31). Other constitutional rights ( given by the Federal Republic of Germany) may include:
- Art. 8 freedom of assembly
- Art. 9 freedom of association
- Art. 5 Freedom of arts, expressions, and sciences
- Art. 42 The Bundestag - Public sitting (majority decisions)
- Art. 72 Division of powers between federation and Landers
- Art. 104 Apportionment of expenditure - financial system - Liability
- Art. 28 Land Constitution - Autonomy of Municipalities
20. According to project material/and or interviews, in what ways have particularities of (local) political culture influenced the character and success of the intervention? (i.e. trust in political institutions, citizens’ will to interact with policymakers and vice versa, traditions of cooperation, etc.)
BEB is an initiative attempting to decentralize the hierarchic and monopolized energy market in Berlin. It is mainly the result of public distrust in private and government institutions and the realization of their responsibility and competency to provide themselves the basic services in a more efficient, effective, inclusive, and sustainable way while being fair and just. However, given the current political system, BEB’s success is highly dependent on political decisions that take a long time to come along and is well-connected to formal political parties and actors. Therefore, it works extensively on making and maintaining contacts with public figures. Furthermore, the cooperative is perceived as a space for political training where people can meet and deliberate. In their attempts to buy the energy grid of Berlin, BEB cooperates with the city government and needs the collaboration of local officials (TESS 5, pg.17).
21. What are financial arrangements that support the intervention?
BEB mainly depends on corporate members’ shares and trust funds for raising money for the purchase of a 25% share of Berlin’s electricity grid. Whereas, funding from sponsorships and donations are used for the awareness-raising campaigns (e.g. zuvielKohle) run by the cooperative (TESS 4, pg. 46).
22. Have any of the above conditions changed within the intervention’s timeframe, which have (significantly) influenced it in a positive or negative way?
Awareness among citizens through awareness campaigns regarding safe and green energy and their democratic rights to decide for themselves has increased that has positively impacted the intervention by increasing the number of volunteers and members.
Note: Certain contexts, which provide opportunities to learn from other relevant experiences, may also be a supportive framework condition. Please see section h, questions 26 + 30 on learning context.
e) Obstacles to successful intervention implementation
23. What obstacles to implementing the intervention (both generally, and in this particular context) have been identified, relating to:
- a. Regulatory framework
Legal arrangements related to bidding procedures are complex and time taking for instance, Vattenfall right now is taking legal measures against the preliminary operator of the grid "Landesbetrieb Berlin Energie" (who won the procurement procedure in 2019) but legally can only start operating when vattenfall´s legal measures are overcome.
- b. Legitimacy
The flow of information and transparency has also been flagged as shortcomings.
- c. Public awareness
Public awareness is a strength. During the plebiscite in 2013, the original threshold of people in favor of remunicipalisation was not reached even when a lot of people voted yes.
- d. Finances
- Arranging funds to obtain 25% of the Berlin power grid. BEB is highly dependent on membership fees (or 100 euro) due to its legal restrictions to harness project funding for being a cooperative.
- Vagueness of the act for the economy of energy (Energiewirtschaftsgesetz) cost money (lawyer’s consultancy) and time.
- Vattenfall has been proposing numbers concerning the value of the grid that was not reasonable (TESS 4, pg.17).
- e. Others (please name)
- The resistance against remunicipalisation is strong; companies and the Federal Cartel Agency question the suitability of citizens and cities as service operators and want to protect the current market structure
- Given most of the members work on a voluntary basis, BEB cannot be as professional as it could be due to the constant change of people. One of the board members states she has a lot of control over the cooperative, although the supervisory committee also plays a central role in management.
- Dependence of BEB’s success on political will. One interviewed politician says, “It could be too much money and work for them to handle” (TESS 5, pg. 25).
f) (Institutional) Work done to overcome obstacles
24. What has been done by each central actor group to overcome which particular obstacles in the way of successfully implementing the intervention? (this may include institutional Work - maintaining, disrupting, and creating new rules, applying to both formal laws/regulations and informal norms and expectations.)
|Name of obstacle||What work was/is being done to overcome this obstacle and by what actor groups?|
|1.Lack of required finance||Run awareness campaigns to attract financial donations and membership share through the media.|
|2.Data security issue||Ensured safety of data by changing BEB website’s security standards.|
|3.Legitimacy/Transparency concern||Flow of information and transparency matters have been addressed by issuing an internal newsletter.|
|4.Resistance against the initiative by Vattenfall||BEB is reaching enough people to influence political decisions and to strengthen its stand.|
|5. Regulatory challenges||Are being dealt with by the members of BEB with great patience and significant amount of economic, time and energy resource investment (TESS 5, pg. 25).|
g) Reported outcomes
25. What are the reported outcomes of the intervention? This may include economic outcomes, political outcomes, ability to reach sustainability and justice targets, etc.
BEB has not reached its goal of purchasing the Berlin energy grid, thus its success could be measured in terms of its campaigns work, and has started an important discussion on public participation in decisions concerning energy infrastructure. Below are some achievements of the milestones accomplished by BEB:
- Collection of 11 million Euros in 2015 (100 million Euros is the target) to buy 25% of the energy grid.
- Increase in the rate of membership (therefore funding too), campaign sponsorships, a number of volunteers, and media attention are the biggest achievements of BE.
- Success in the future would mean to be a shareholder of the energy grid in Berlin or at a cooperation partner, supplying renewable energy (TESS 5, pg. 16).
Besides, in 2019 the "Landesbetrieb Berlin Energie" won the procurement procedure which is a victory on the way to remunicipalisation.
h) Learning involved in establishing the intervention
Please fill in any information on social learning that has occured in this intervention (conceptualized here as “Learning context, content, and process” in line with the FOODLINKS project). Where possible, please differentiate your response into learning done by specific actor groups.
(i.e. the configuration and social environment enabling the learning process)
26. According to the TRANSIT project’s four mechanisms for empowerment – i. funding; ii. legitimacy; iii. knowledge sharing, learning, and peer support; or iv. visibility and identity – please briefly describe the following, and indicate where the intervention has been developed or supported as part of which formal collaborations, networks or projects:
- a. any previous experiences in the same urban context (e.g. city…) that the intervention is (reportedly) building upon? This could include any relevant experiences in the same or another sector.
- b. any inter-city partnerships, or transfers from experiences elsewhere that have (reportedly) been important in the emergence of this intervention?
The intervention is building upon a previous experience in the town of Schönau that does not exactly have the same context - Schönau is a small town whereas Berlin is a state city.
27. Has any acquired knowledge (e.g. technical knowledge, awareness of local political procedures etc.) been reported as particularly helpful to this intervention?
- a. from previous experiences in the same urban context
- b. from inter-city partnerships or transfers from experiences elsewhere
EWS Schönau has been instrumental in the success of BEB through passing on knowledge and expertise. In order to reach out to people and inform them about the cooperative they worked together with the media, organized so-called “NetzGipfel” (Network Summits), and took part in demonstrations and other events to inform people about their initiative and to get more participants. One of the founders of Schönau is a board member of BEB.
- c. from other knowledge gathering/research
28. In what ways has the intervention been adapted to specific circumstances of the targeted urban context based on the learned content reported in question 27?
The intervention had not been replicated elsewhere yet.
29. Based on your answers to question 24, how has overcoming obstacles (reportedly) contributed to the learning process?
30. Please list any tools that enabled the learning process (e.g. various Knowledge Brokerage Activities from pg. 24 of FOODLINK’s Deliverable 7.1 - linked in footnote) and the actors involved in using them.
i) Learning involved in establishing interventions elsewhere (transferability)
31. Suggestions regarding transferability.
- a. Have any suggestions been made about a replicability, scaleability or transferability of the intervention? [e.g. in the documentation of the intervention in a project or the press? Links would be perfect]
BEB is a replication of another cooperative from the town of Schönau that successfully purchased the town’s currently operational power grid. A similar initiative has been undertaken in Hamburg. So, it can be said that the initiative is highly replicable, however, transferability/replicability has not been suggested.
- b. Transferability to what kind of contexts has been suggested?
- c. Who has made the claims?
- d. What limits to transferability to broader contexts have been discussed?
32. In what forms has the learning process, including stories of overcoming obstacles, been recorded for, and/or made accessible to city makers also from elsewhere?
As part of TESS study, BEB members had been interviewed about the intervention including confronted challenges/obstacles.
33. Have any signs of collaboration, support, or inspiration already been reported between actors involved in this intervention and others that follow its example? (e.g. in “follower cities”?)
BEB’s goal has not yet been achieved therefore the replication of the specific intervention has not been recorded.
j) Structural learning
34. Has the intervention influenced higher-level governance arrangements such that sustainability and justice are considered (together) in a more durable, structural way? In other words, are there any observations about more structural, long-term changes as a result of the intervention?
- For example: new programs run by local councils, new modes of citizen participation, new mediating bodies
- Is there other evidence that the project has contributed to enhancing sustainable and just governance in cities in a general sense?
k) Reflections on important governance concepts
35. What other aspects of governance, that were not covered above, are important to highlight, too?
The initiative aims to build and improve alternatives in parallel to the existing governance structure. A decentralized (economy and) energy system that focuses on supply-driven-demand, not demand-driven-supply.
36. From your perspective as a researcher, which word or phrase characterizes this governance intervention most concisely? (Please attach your name to the characterization) In other words, what is the biggest takeaway from this intervention about governance arrangements?
A citizens-driven initiative based on a decentralized bottom-up governance system, standing firm to achieve envisioned goals even when things didn’t work as expected and planned.
Appendix 1: Three modes of governance
(from NATURVATION project)
NATURVATION's NBS-Atlas distinguishes three categories of governance arrangements (dubbed "management set-ups":
- Government-led (Gov)
- Co-governance or hybrid governance (mix of responsibilities between government and non-government actors) (c/h)
- Led by non-government actors (NGO)
Alternatively or additionally, the following four modes of governing (as distinguished also by Bulkeley/Kern 2006 and Zvolska et al. 2019) could be used as a typology: Castan Broto/ Bulkeley 2013:95
- Self-governing, intervening in the management of local authority operations to ‘‘lead by example’’;
- Provision, greening infrastructure and consumer services provided by different authorities;
- Regulations, enforcing new laws, planning regulations, building codes, etc.; and
- Enabling, supporting initiatives led by other actors through information and resource provision and partnerships”
Appendix 2: Policy typology
(from NATURVATION project)
|Regulatory (administrative, command-and-control)||Mandatory fulfillment of certain requirements by targeted actors||Legislations, regulations, laws, directives, etc.|
|Economic (financial, market-based)||Financial (dis)incentives to trigger change by providing (new) favourable (or unfavourable) economic conditions for targeted actors||Positive incentive include subsidies, soft loans, tax allowance and procurments. Negative incentives are taxes, fees and charges.|
|Informative (educational)||They aim at providing information or knowledge to target actors in order to increase awareness and support informed decision-making accomplish or prevent social change||Information and awareness raising campaigns, informative leaflets, advertisements in different media.|
|Voluntary||Commitment and/or actions beyond legal requirements, undertaken by private actors and/or non-governmental organisations.||Voluntary actions and agreements.|
- Background to this question: Our four main criteria for selecting particular governance interventions and develop rich descriptions of them were: A) The intervention has been studied in a specific urban context (e.g. city), B) this context is located in Europe (and, preferably, the study was EU-funded), C) the intervention considers to a large extent sustainability AND justice (at least implicitly), and D) it is well-documented, ideally including assumptions or even critical reflections on enablers and barriers to implementation and on transferability (i.e. ‘de-contextualizability’). Additionally, we aimed at a diverse portfolio of domains (see Q2.) and governance modes (see Q5): https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1nCPcUd-COIQ1MsBjir20_F1CBbnSu6HqKH9nNLshiVQ/edit?usp=sharing.
- Actor types according to TRANSIT’s Critical Turning Point Database, http://www.transitsocialinnovation.eu/about-ctps-in-tsi-processes.
- If easily possible mention sources for your association of roles.
- Deliverable 7.1 Synthesis Report on results from Monitoring and Evaluation (p.14) : http://www.foodlinkscommunity.net/fileadmin/documents_organicresearch/foodlinks/publications/karner-etal-d-7-1.pdf .
- http://www.foodlinkscommunity.net/fileadmin/documents_organicresearch/foodlinks/publications/karner-etal-d-7-1.pdf .
- Feel free to include learning that has been made available through EU project documentation, intervention initiatives, or other channels. In addition to the forms in which the learning process has been shared with others, please indicate whether the learning process that’s being shared has been recorded in a self-critical/reflexive way.