Grass roots initiative in Bremerhaven

16 June 2022 - Published by Deirdre Buist
The Climate Mile "Alte Bürger" in Bremerhaven, a sub-project supported by Stronghouse, has been generating great interest in the regional press and inspiring more than just the locals. This energy renovation initiative is developing grass roots, as more neighbourhoods and resident groups are impressed by this collaborative example.

So, what makes this such an interesting case? As a tenant, property manager or owner you might wonder what you can do as an individual to reduce energy consumption and contribute to the climate goals we all want to achieve. The 'Citizens 202' residents group  on Bremerhaven's pub mile are planning a photovoltaic system on the roof of their building and want to involve all tenants and owners in a small, citizen-powered project. There are still a few obstacles to overcome, but their success so far has been stimulated by participation in the Stronghouse project. 

A rooftop company

By founding a rooftop company to erect a photovoltaic system on the top of the building, 'Citizens 202' will generate their own electricity - which will not be fed into the grid but consumed in the building itself. Shares in the company can be acquired by owners and tenants.  The residents group thus plan to form an energy community  - probably the first of its kind in the city. 

Many of the tenants, some of whom have lived in the building for decades, support the fact that they have the opportunity to become active themselves and are keen to progress with specialists. Of the 25 apartments, 21 are rented and only three are owner-occupied.

By law, electricity from the roof must be 10% cheaper than the local electricity tariff. So anyone who uses this electricity can save money. Those who additionally invest in the rooftop company will also profit from the sale of surplus power. Share prices are decided by the residents, everyone can participate and it is voluntary.

Calculating the solar potential

The  Stronghouse 'Climate Mile' team is led by Till Scherzinger of the Climate City Office, while property manager and co-owner Alexander Schramm, sustainable energy student Roland Hüneke-Brown and flat owner Mike Heilmann have joined forces to figure out the possibilities for ‘their’ building.  With Roland Hüneke-Brown’s engineering skills , the help of the city’s solar roof cadastre ( and other services, the team did some initial  calculations. In a self-made feasibility study, the  solar energy potential  of the roof and it's possiblel electricity yield was calculated and compared to the current electricity consumption of the building’s 25 apartments.

Dual metering system

With the current energy crisis, material delivery set-backs and the shortage of skilled workers, progress has been delayed but this sustainable energy community  hope to be producing electricity by next spring.  To ensure sufficient supply, residents will have two meters – one for the ‘self-produced’ electricity and one from a back-up supplier of their own choice.

Hurdles & setting an example

Roland Hüneke-Brown:” We still have a few hurdles to take. The legal form of the company has yet to be clarified (a cooperative or a Gesellschaft bürgerlichen Rechts (GbR)). Some practical issues regarding the installation of panels and general safety challenges have also yet to be addressed. But we’re planning for a long term pay off and expect this to last 20 years, at least. We want to show that it can be done, and maybe others will then dare to follow this good example.”

Word is spreading

Till Scherzinger: "The first request from another housing community to start a solar cooperative has already reached us. That means, we're now seeing the exact effect we were hoping to trigger with this Stronghouse subproject - word is spreading. I'm convinced this has been primed by exceptionally intensive public participation during the concept phase. We were meticulous about engaging these stakeholders and ensuring that communication flowed predominantly from the residents directly to the city administration."

Empowering citizens

The project also has a clear political message. “We must take real steps forward in the energy transition, with less dependency on fossil fuels and the powers that control our energy supply",  Till adds.   "We’re empowering citizens with our grass roots approach and are happy to share these experiences to inspire other Stronghouse partners.”