30 Years of Sustainable Energy

Dr. Werner Neumann on the strategic importance of municipal climate action in the context of energy transition

Energy is a key aspect of climate action and has been a focus topic of Climate Alliance since the beginning. Three decades of Climate Alliance is therefore a good reason to look back on three decades of work in the field of sustainable energy. What has happened so far, what role do municipalities play in this context and where must the journey lead? Together with Werner Neumann, who has been closely connected with Climate Alliance from the very beginning, we will get to the bottom of these questions. From 1992 to 2013 Neumann headed up the Energy Department (Municipal Climate Protection Agency) of the City of Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Frankfurt is a founding member of Climate Alliance, which was in part initiated by Tom Koenigs, then Frankfurt's Environment Commissioner.  

"We invented municipal climate action back then! Before that, politicians thought that climate protection only takes place at national level or in heaven," emphasises Werner Neumann. With Climate Alliance, small towns and big cities have shown that, in the end, local implementation is what matters most. This was closely linked to the fight for municipal climate protection regulations, still missing today in the German Building Code and the Energy Savings Regulation.

"Climate action is fun!" was one of Neumann's favourite phrases for the press. The technical solutions are available and, despite many obstacles, economical. "It’s a matter of organising activities – whether it’s the ice block bet, fifty-fifty savings incentives or energy management," stresses Neumann. He sees municipalities as laboratories for climate action. "The German Renewable Energy Sources Act also had its roots in the actions some municipalities that introduced cost-neutral solar renumeration. The energy management of municipal buildings as well as climate-friendly urban land use mediation, consultation and planning are key elements that must be municipal duties and rights. This means that the cornerstones of the decentralised energy transition are in the hands of citizens, whether in form of cooperatives or municipal utilities", explains Werner Neumann.

The 100% Renewable Master Pans of many German municipalities are also elements of a cellular structure. Werner Neumann explains that, whether at home or on a municipal or even district level, a completely renewable and efficient energy supply must be based on the extensive use of local resources and fair energy balancing between urban and suburban areas. To pave the way for the energy transition, he names an aspect of strategic importance: "If the economic energy dialogue between energy users and consumers (prosumers) and between private consumption and the sale of electricity and heat between tenants, homeowners and municipal buildings is obstructed in favor of large corporations, it quickly becomes clear where we need to start."

For Neumann, community is the key to a successful energy transition. "The energy transition as a joint effort, as formulated by the Ethics Committee in 2013, needs to see communities as an active, responsible and driving force. Climate Alliance is the basis for this. Municipal climate action – it has never been as valuable as it is today!“