Will Munich be world’s first ‘megacity’ to reach 100% renewables?

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Last year, Munich was named winner of the Green Energy category at the inaugural C40 & Siemens City Climate Leadership Awards for its 100 per cent Green Power by 2025 Plan. But it was five years ago that the German city first set itself this ambitious target.

Back in 2009, in cooperation with the city-owned utility company Stadtwerke Muenchen (SWM), the City of Munich committed to a goal of producing enough green electricity in its own power plants by 2025 to meet the complete demand of the municipality — at least 7.5 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) per year.

Europe, by contrast, has a target of 20 per cent renewables by 2020.


Former Munich Mayor Hep Monatzeder on an e-bike

So how is Munich tracking in 2014? Will it meet its 2025 deadline and become the first city in the world with over a million inhabitants to achieve this goal? And if so, how?

“We forced our utilities company… to invest in renewable energy,” Hep Monatzeder, the former mayor of Munich, told CNBC’s Innovation Cities in an interview this week. “All the other big cities have to go this way, otherwise we will not protect the earth.”

Accordingly, SWM launched its Renewable Energies Expansion Campaign with investments adding up to a total of €9 billion. And already, with all projects currently in progress due to be completed this year – including a hydro power plant on the river Isar, which produces enough electricity to supply 4,000 Munich homes a year – SWM will have a generation capacity of over 3.5 billion kWh of green electricity from its own plants, including from wind, water, geothermal, solar and biomass power.

According to the company’s website, all that adds up to 47 per cent of Munich’s power consumption – significantly more than the requirements of the city’s approximately 800,000 households and underground rail and tram systems. Further projects with “great potential” – particularly in wind power, which SWM describes as is “the most cost efficient of the renewable energies” – are said to be in planning.

As part of the plan, SWM also established a virtual power plant – a decentralized network of small-scale energy plants and large industrial consumers that is pooled and operated like a single system, and has a combined output of 80MW.

Outside of Munich, SWM has also been investing in renewables projects around Europe, including a solar heat plant in Andalusia, Spain and off shore wind farms in the North Sea – the clean electricity from which is fed back into the integrated European grid.


Solar panels at a plant near Munich

“If you save CO2 emissions in Munich or in Spain, it doesn’t matter, it is important that you… save them,” Florian Bieberbach, CEO of Stadtwerke München, told

“This is why this political aim does not mean technically to deliver the electricity in Munich, it just means Munich takes its share in combatting climate change.”

SWM’s long-term vision also includes producing all of the district’s heat from renewable energy sources including geothermal energy and biogas until 2040. Currently, district heat is generated in highly efficient co-generation power plants using fossil fuels.

“Besides energy production our policy to mitigate climate change addresses all other sectors: industry, trade and services, private households, transportation and the activities of the city administration itself,” said Monatzeder.

“Hence, we support companies and households when they save energy, increase their energy efficiency, and are willing to use renewable energies. In that regard we provide information, consultancy and subsidies.

“We also try to integrate sustainability into all areas of our policy: fiscal policy, economic and social policy, environmental policy and city planning. The overall concept for Munich’s sustainable spatial development follows the keywords ‘compact, urban, green’ and demands to manage and use land more efficiently and to focus on the reduction of traffic. Apart from the latter efforts, Munich gives priority to public transport and the promotion of walking and cycling.”Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 11.25.27 AM  

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  • Lars Lohmann

    I lived in Munich 2008-2010 when SWM invested in North Sea Offshore Wind Power. I really think many cities could learn a few things from Munich on wider aspects of sustainability. For example the city had wonderful subsidised/inexpensive school holiday programmes for working families, that cost as little as 8Euro a day per child. Do a sports programme here and its more like $100/day.

  • Alen

    When I was younger I used to travel to Munich at least every second month to watch the home games (1860 München) and to now imagine that this vast city can achieve something like this really seems like a tremendous achievement (I was very young back then so my perspective and memory may make it a tad bigger than it actually is). I hope to one day see such leadership and aspiration here in Brisbane, instead of being known for creating Dictator-like state premiers like C. Newman

    One day…

  • Alan

    I do applaud my adopted home city of Munich in their efforts. Interestingly, though, there is still much work to do. There are still conflicting efforts and aims – for example, in order to protect the “look + feel” of the older buildings, we’re not allowed solar panels on many rooftops, among other regulations. Somehow I think we have a bigger aim & vision than that. But nonetheless, it’s great to have some cities leading the way and showing what’s possible.