BENG eG – Energy Cooperative in Munich

The founding members of BENG were a former group of AGENDA-21 activists. The key event for “going into the risk” and pushing forward to establish a (registered) energy-cooperative was the nuclear fallout of Fukushima early 2011; BENG was founded 1.april 2011 with 18 members. Some months later BENG had the opportunity to establish in Aschheim (near Munich) an open space photovoltaic system (1,1 MW; financial volume: 2,5 Mio. €) to produce own “green energy”. Beside Aschheim the cooperative invested membership-fees in three further roof-top photovoltaic grids in peri-urban Munich. Today BENG has around 200 members and a board of directors (3 members).

Strategies and practices

Decisive for the successful establishment of BENG can be summed up: (1) Members knew each other (trust, reliability, mutuality) and shared a collective intentionality: citizens emancipation “We can do it on our own!”, (2) A shared ecological interest in climate protection, exit nuclear energy supply, and their replacement by renewable energy and decentralisation/spatial proximity: “being independent and regional”, (3) A clear and achievable goal: energy transition, (4) This social practice of ‘Green Energy Transition’ is able to integrate ‘left’ and ‘conservative’ political standpoints (orientation on means and ends).

Aims

The constitutive aim of BENG is being pragmatic, concrete and focussed on the sustainable production of renewable energy supply, by integrating diverse and necessary economic and administrative knowledge. The collective action of BENG can be defined in Weberian term as “Vergesellschaftung” (more like a classic organisation/association/“Verein”) due to their shared interest(s) and goal-orientation. Regular meetings are held to coordinate action, plan strategies/investments, lobbying in the Bavarian political and energy sector, etc.
Most members are part of ‘eco-bourgeoise milieus’, driven by a collective feeling of ‘energy autonomy’ with the vision of a „eco-social market economy“ (with a strong ‚value orientation‘ and ecological ethos behind their pragmatism). Some members realize a contradiction and ambivalence between ‘dividend/profit-orientation’ and the ecological ethos by asking: “How can we remain faithfull?“ This faithfulness has to be renewed/self-insured from time to time, because otherwise a dividend orientation (“instrumental reason” in Adorno & Horkheimer’s sense) may get dominant. One could state in the current status of BENG: The energy-cooperative is able to practice „dividend orientation and ecological ethos“.

to put in a nutshell

BENG is a pragmatic, goal-oriented energy-cooperative practicing collective autonomy and aims to benefit from the energy transition in a sustainable way. Main future challenge seems that means do not become ends (that economic benefit orientation will not get the dominant collective rationality: ecological emptiness?).

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