Discussion Papers

Andrea Liebe, Christine Müller

Energy cooperatives and the turnaround in energy policy

No. 383/January 2014

(Full version only available in German)


The transformation of the energy system implies significant organisational changes across the energy value chain. One striking phenomenon is the increasing formation of energy cooperatives. The inherent objectives, implications and effects are yet an open field of research. This discussion paper addresses this issue against the background of the transformation of the energy system and assess micro and macroeconomic issues. The assessment is based on selected descriptive statistics featuring the different characteristics of energy cooperatives. Generation cooperatives are the prevailing type of energy cooperatives in Germany. The focus of the analysis is on generation cooperatives in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia.

From a microeconomic perspective, the formation trend of energy cooperatives seems rather ambivalent. Generation cooperatives seem to be a reaction to the supporting scheme for renewable energies. The solar energy cooperatives considered have a strong rate of return focus, which is more pronounced than it is common for cooperatives in general. Simultaneously, they serve as financier and therefore contribute to investments to finance the transformation process. In contrast, biomass cooperatives rather focus on an independent energy distribution than on an attractive rate of return. Their main objectives are a competitive, decentral energy distribution, direct participation and an active contribution to the transformation process.

From a macroeconomic perspective, energy cooperatives are able to address the challenges of the transformation of the energy system. They give a significant impetus in investing in generation capacities and contribute to social acceptance, especially in terms of generation facilities. The organisational form of energy cooperatives is unique as it combines the option of direct participation in the transformation of the energy system with financial interests. In turn, this supports acceptances and features a high level of stability. In terms of economic efficiency, however, some caveats may be noted such as the involvement of municipal institutions in private activities and tendencies towards own consumption.

Discussion Paper is available for download.

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