Apparently, a citizens group in Berlin is looking to buy the capital city’s electricity grid. The group, Bürger Energie Berlin (BEB), wouldn’t be the first to do such a thing. As noted in this post on the documentary Power Play, Germans in the village of Schönau bought their grid decades ago and turned the area into a renewable energy leader. However, my guess is that this would the biggest such community grid purchase if it went through (correct me if I’m wrong).
BEB “has told Berlin’s Senate (as the City Council is called in the capital) that it is interested in buying the local power grid,” Craig Morris and Sven Ullrich of Renewable International writes. “The current contract with Sweden’s Vattenfall expires in 2014, and a new contract may be awarded in the next few months.”
Right now, BEB is in the process of collecting funds for the likely purchase.
“All citizens are invited to take part in a community purchase of the power grid in accordance with their financial leeway,” BEB announced. “We have already collected more than €1 million,” explains Lukas Beckmann, a supervisory board member at BEB. The group expects to need an equity ratio of 40%, with the rest coming from loans. Shares will not only be sold to residents of the German capital, but to anyone willing to invest at least €500. Nonprofits and private companies can also purchase shares. Indeed, power provider Schönau, from a community in southern Germany that got the ball rolling decades ago by purchasing its own local grid, already has a stake in BEB. Regardless of the number of shares purchased, everyone will have a vote in the general assembly to ensure that large investors do not dominate or take over smaller ones. BEB says it is also open to the idea of a partnership with the municipal government and would also work with a grid partner. But BEB says it will not work with any of Germany’s Big Four power firms “because they do not share our goals for energy supply.”
“We support the integration of renewables in the grid, distributed energy supply, and smart grids,” explains BEB board member Cornelia Ziehm. “In particular, smart grids are especially important in switching to renewables,” Ziehm adds. “But only those grid operators who are truly committed to this switch will ensure that our current grids are revamped.”
Note, however, that this is not a done deal yet. Here are the rest of the details from Morris and Ullrich:
“If the BEB gets the contract, it says it will devote at least 10% of profits to setting up an energy supply focusing on renewables. The rest will be paid back to shareholders. But even if BEB gets the contract, it is still not clear how much Berlin’s grid will cost. The city Senate put the figure at around 400 million euros, but Vattenfall says it is worth around three billion euros. The BEB says the latter figure is completely off the mark and points out that the Swedish power giant purchased the grid in 1997 from Berlin’s former municipal power firm Bewag for 1.17 billion euros – including the district heating network and power plants for electricity and heat production. Vattenfall has yet to provide any information about the condition of the grid, but the BEB expects this information to be made available before the contract is awarded.”