Local energy companies: a comparative and historical analysis of Metz (France) and Saarbrücken (Germany)

Local energy companies: a comparative and historical analysis of Metz (France) and Saarbrücken (Germany)

Deutsch-Französischer Diskurs mit

Dr. Carole Wernert (Université Gustave Eiffel)

Mittwoch, 12. Januar 2022, 18.15 Uhr

Online-Veranstaltung über MS Teams (Link)

Gastgeber: Prof. Dr. Hans-Peter Dörrenbächer/ Jun.-Prof. Dr. Florian Weber, Geographie

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Abstract zum Vortrag

The foundations of low-carbon energy transitions at the local level were laid in the 1970s in the wake of the oil crisis, further spurred by the first IPCC report in 1990. Urban local authorities were able to develop their energy-climate policies due to local energy companies, some of which were founded around the turn of the 20th century. In order to gain a better understanding of how these local energy actors maintained and developed their activities in an extremely competitive sector, we propose a comparative analysis of the historical development of the local energy companies – the ‘Stadtwerke’ – of Metz and Saarbrücken. Building upon this, we can then understand how these legacies are being transformed by the current challenges of low-carbon energy transition.

In France, the energy system is largely centralized, with the notable exception of the city of Metz, which established a local distribution company (ELD), the ‘Usine d’Electricité de Metz’ (UEM) in 1901 during the first German annexation. Since then, the UEM had to show a particular adaptability and innovation to survive. It serves as a producer and distributor of electricity and heat, is owned by the municipality (85%), and consolidates public finances while at the same time developing local and / or renewable resources.

In Germany, local energy companies – so-called ‘Stadtwerke’ – tend to be more common. The ‘Stadtwerke’ of Saarbrücken – the capital city of the Saarland – had to resist and compete with energy companies in the Ruhr area through a strong attachment to its regional and local coal industry. In the 1980s and 1990s, the city and its ‘Stadtwerk’ in particular challenged nuclear powerplants and acted as a laboratory for renewable energy. However, the path of the energy transition in Saarbrücken also experienced ruptures and continuing dependencies on coal, thus illustrating the nonlinearity of this process.