Some examples in Europe show that cities running their own energy company can lower the energy bill for citizens

November 25, 2016 by Sorina Buzatu,

Across Europe, town and city councils are becoming increasingly interested in energy decentralisation, i.e. in producing power closer to where it is consumed.

Those municipalities that have already experienced this say the model is one of the best ways of fighting pollution and reducing energy costs for citizens. Heidelberg is one such in Germany, with its long-running energy company.

The city-owned company is responsible for managing gas, heating, and the water and sewage systems. "The most important issue was that we started our action plan with all the population behind us", states mayor Eckart Würzner. "We have a general strategy to be a city free of fossil fuels by 2050. This is extremely challenging since we are a growing city and therefore we have to switch to renewables in very little time," he points out.

The Municipality has developed a new urban area, Bahnstadt, that is 100 % CO2 free. "The buildings are very energy efficient and the resources used to serve this area are 100 % renewable. We have noticed that the energy demand of the flats' owners has fallen dramatically," adds the mayor of Heidelberg. All the buildings in Bahnstadt are constructed to 'passive house' standards. This construction concept allows the inhabitants to cut their energy consumption for heating by 80% compared to normal houses.

Energy is generally inexpensive in Sweden since there is a long tradition of cities supplying citizens with affordable home-grown power. In addition, prices are kept low by the large choice of energy companies – around 300 – on the market today.

Växjö is no exception and governs its energy policy and resources independently. "We own our biomass plant, where we produce electricity, heating and cooling, and for 20 years we have been using only bio-energy. Actually the entire city is heated with bio-energy", says mayor Bo Frank.

He adds that the city also owns facilities for biogas production. "Each citizen is more or less required to put all in a separate container. We use that organic waste to produce biogas for all public transport", explains Frank. The city promotes public transport to limit the number of cars in the city centre. "We encourage people and companies to buy electric cars. All cars owned by the Municipality are environmentally-friendly", states Frank.

In France, the city of Grenoble has been able to gain the trust of its citizens thanks to its 100 year-old energy company. Private businesses sell electricity to under 20% of the population.

"Private stakeholders are only interested in the financial aspect, whereas local energy suppliers also take into account the social, environmental and spatial dimensions of cities", says deputy mayor Vincent Fristot. He adds that the Municipality can offer specific support to people who are unable to pay their electricity bills. It involves allowing citizens to pay in instalments or to fit home devices with low-power consumption.

Besides the social benefits granted to citizens, the local energy supplier in Grenoble has invested in renewable facilities, such as wind turbines and photovoltaic panels. "It was very important for us to be able to supply green energy at the best possible price, which can compete with private energy companies", emphasises Fristot.

Cat Hobbs, director of We Own It, a British campaigning organisation, located in Oxford, agree on this approach: "It is difficult to have control over when the company is private. They do what they like; therefore, for those who want to produce renewable energy, it would be much easier to set up new companies, with public ownership".

More and more communities in Europe are pondering a return to public management of power and of other important assets such as water. The new trend is known as remunicipalisation.

In other words, back in local hands.

Explore further: Opinion: Oslo's ambitious 'climate budget' sets the bar for other cities

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Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (6) Nov 25, 2016
Technology has changed this industry forever, like cars did to stagecoaches. It is all diversification and distribution of resources from now on. They will be the interconnect, like the communications companies, but we will all have the ability to send power both ways, and the technology to do it.

While at PG&E I trained technical people from the municipalities around us who had their own electricity "departments". They are growing in number and style.

In the "Midwest", some cooperatives were way ahead of the large companies in automated trouble reporting and using onsite generation for customers too far away for wires to be practical.

Cities are naturals because of the proximity and aggregation of resources for shared heating and cooling, transportation, and other needs for energy.
3.7 / 5 (6) Nov 25, 2016
While at PG&E I trained technical people from the municipalities around us who had their own electricity "departments". They are growing in number and style
You delivered lunch and learn seminars as part of a team. Seminars prepared by real engineers. This is not you 'training' anyone, this is a free lunch in return for a sales pitch.

And you ended up with that job after you washed out of the 'senior engr' position you lied yourself into.

But then you lost the lunch and learn job as well. All in the course of 6 years at most.

And then you come here and TELL us all this but you try to pass it off as some kind of success, which, sadly, is quite obviously just the opposite. Another failure in a long string of failures.

George kamburoff - death of a salesman.
1.6 / 5 (7) Nov 25, 2016
I shouldn't respond, but I got my first snicker of the day reading the sniper "otto" admittedly here to play games, so fixated on getting even he babbles about anything he can for attention,.. . and reveals his ignorance, like Trump.

My god, are you so shallow this is all you have in life?
1 / 5 (6) Nov 26, 2016
It looks like another nation will reject the dangerous and costly nuclear powerplants.

3.7 / 5 (6) Nov 27, 2016
My god, are you so shallow this is all you have in life?
My god is lying badly all you got?

"Psychopaths just have what it takes to defraud and bilk others: they can be fast talkers, they can be charming, they can be self-assured and at ease in social situations; they are cool under pressure, unfazed by the possibility of being found out, and totally ruthless. And even when they are exposed, they can carry on as if nothing has happened, often making their accusers the targets of accusations of being victimized by THEM."

-WHY is george kamburoff so easy to expose? Does he REALLY want people to know him for the lying cheating psychopath that he is?

Better that than for people to ignore him completely.
1.6 / 5 (7) Nov 27, 2016
We are already Balkanizing our grid in some places, as municipalities spin off of investor-owned utilities. Some groups, such as SMUD in Sacramento offer significant rate reductions, and show great maturity and professionalism in serving their customers.

SMUD shut down their nuclear plant and ate the costs because it was not deemed to be sufficiently safe. How many for-profit groups would do that? Look into Indian Point.
2 / 5 (4) Nov 28, 2016
It looks like another nation will reject the dangerous and costly nuclear powerplants.

It looks like Swiss were not fooled by the Green pseudo-environmentalists(fossil fuel lobbyists).
Mother Earth, natural landscapes, bird and bats, should thank Swiss by their decision and by not be deceived by the Green pseudo-environmentalists(pro-fossil fuel lobbyists).
Congratulation Switzerland!!!
Carbon-free nuclear power is the most ecologically friendly way to fight climate change.
"Swiss reject quick exit from atomic power"
"Swiss voters reject early nuclear withdrawal"
1.6 / 5 (7) Nov 28, 2016
I wonder how many customers would choose to buy 3-4 cents/kWh alternative power instead of the over 15 cents they project (so far, the costs are not all in yet), for Hinkley.

Then, they have to pay extremely-educated and costly personnel to operate it, unlike the non-dangerous renewables. Then, hoping it does not melt down, they have to find ways to store the so-far unstorable nasty high-level nuclear waste.

You can be sure no municipality will again try to use nuclear power.
3 / 5 (4) Nov 28, 2016
...3-4 cents/kWh alternative power...
yes, unicorn fart energy is dirty cheap and is replacing fossil fuels everywhere ... in fairyland

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