Russian gas? Nein danke, says energy self-sufficient German district


BERLIN, July 25 (Reuters) – As Germany scrambles to avert a fuel crisis this winter, one rural district has become a role model for how the country might wean itself off dwindling imports of Russian gas – by producing all the energy that it consumes itself .

The western district of Rhein-Hunsrueck uses a combination of solar, wind and biofuel to generate enough power to run its homes, public buildings and businesses, with enough left over to contribute to an electric car-sharing service and e-bikes.

The area’s energy transition has also been a relatively rapid one.

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“Up until 1995, not a single kilowatt hour of energy used in our district was produced by us. Everything had to be imported,” said Frank-Michael Uhle, the district’s climate protection manager.

“Then some visionaries said that wars were being fought about oil and gas and decided that we needed to do something about it.”

Now, more than three years after it turned climate-neutral, Rhein-Hunsrueck boasts 279 wind turbines plus biofuel plants, and its towns and villages are dotted with solar panel arrays.

Even in a country with a well developed renewables sector – and as the government in Berlin contemplates the unsettling prospect of gas rationing during the winter – that puts it well ahead of the curve.

At a national level, Germany is targeting carbon neutrality by 2045 and for renewables to contribute 80% of power generation by 2030.

In Rhein-Hunsrueck, the biofuel from woodland waste products used to help heat public and private buildings generates the equivalent of one million liters of heating oil per year, said Thomas Lorenz, the manager of the district’s waste management facility.

“And we are currently only using about half of the waste. If we wanted to process all of it we could easily operate three other heating plants,” he added.

The district’s energy transition has also brought economic benefits.

Its unemployment rate has fallen to 3.5% – below the national average of 5.3% – and local municipalities are debt-free and have financial reserves of 99 million euros ($101 million), data from the Rhineland-Palatinate region’s Energy Agency shows.

($1 = 0.9763 euros)

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Reporting by Riham Alkousaa, Timm Reichert and Tilman Blasshofer, editing by Rachel More and John Stonestreet

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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