Schönau in the Black Forest, Germany’s ‘Electricity Rebels’

Wednesday, 21 December 2011 - 01:55 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Environment
Reading Time:  3 minutes

Bergkirche - Protestant Church © Taxiarchos228

Bergkirche – Protestant Church © Taxiarchos228

Schönau im Schwarzwald is a town in the district of Lörrach in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It is situated in the Black Forest, on the river Wiese, 35 kilometres (22 mi) northeast of Basel, Switzerland, and 23 kilometres (14 mi) south of Freiburg. Schwarzwald transliterally is defined as “Black Forest” in German.

Germany’s reputation for environmental friendliness may have found its expression in the Black Forest citizens’ initiative that won a David and Goliath battle against the local electricity provider.

In April 1986, Ursula Sladek lay at home, incapacitated with a broken thigh after a skiing accident. As fallout from the Soviet reactor Chernobyl rained over Europe, Sladek pleaded with her kids not to go out in the yard. They ignored her, and that got her thinking.

To counter her feeling of helplessness, Sladek, a homemaker, joined forces with other Schönau residents and formed Parents for a Nuclear-Free Future. Their aim was to put an end to atomic energy. The group did what they could to raise townspeople’s energy awareness, running competitions to save energy and even approaching the Black Forest town’s electricity provider, hoping that Kraftübertragungswerke Rheinfelden (KWR) would introduce prices that rewarded customers for frugal energy use.

Energieträgermix der Elektrizitätswerke Schönau Bergkirche - Protestant Church © Taxiarchos228
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Energieträgermix der Elektrizitätswerke Schönau
But by showing the parents the door, the stony faces at KWR inadvertently heralded the end of their golden days of providing Schönau with electricity. After 13 years, two town referendums and a successful nationwide campaign to raise funds, the Schönau “electricity rebels,” as the press dubbed the citizens’ initiative, became the first German community to buy back their own power grid.

“We weren’t after the electricity network,” Sladek has said. “In the beginning we just wanted a little support for our idea.”

The “rebels” started producing the energy their town needed by building block heating stations and installing solar panels, including outfitting the local Protestant church with solar cells. What they couldn’t supply themselves they bought. And in 1999, Elektrizitätswerke Schönau (EWS) went national, a year after the German electricity market was liberalized.

Today the Schönau Power Company provides 100% nuclear and coal free electricity power with 79.5% from renewables and 20.5% from natural gas.

Found on dw,com – Germany’s ‘Electricity Rebels’. Read more on City of Schönau, Schönau Power Station and Wikipedia Schönau.




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