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"Cool heads in the hothouse!": Interview with a cc.alps award winner

Thanks to its mayor, Arno Zengerle, the municipality of Wildpoldsried is breaking new ground in the renewable energy sector.

Thanks to its mayor, Arno Zengerle, the municipality of Wildpoldsried is breaking new ground in the renewable energy sector. © Municipality of Wildpoldsried

"Everyone wants to do their bit!" On 6 November 2008 CIPRA rewarded the seven best measures submitted to the cc.alps competition. The Oberallgäu municipality of Wildpoldsried/D won one of the three main prizes for its activities in the area of energy efficiency. Andrea Skiba from the cc.alps team spoke to the Mayor of Wildpoldsried, Arno Zengerle, about their success.
Building with timber is one of the three mainstays supporting Wildpoldsried's successful energy concept.

Building with timber is one of the three mainstays supporting Wildpoldsried's successful energy concept. © 2000 Municipality of Wildpoldsried

First the cc.alps Prize, now the German Solar Prize 2009 - why is it that Wildpoldsried wins so many awards?
We've come a long way in the area of renewable energy generation and energy savings in the fringe area of timber construction as well as water conservation. We also achieved very good ratings in the European Energy Award and we've working hard to improve them further.

What did the prize money from cc.alps allow you to do?
We want to use the prize money to provide the basis for setting up an experimental facility with fast-growing timber. The facility would examine how sewage sludge fertilisation affects the growth pattern of fast-growing wood fuel and soil quality. We want to combine the whole project with a university so we can obtain long-term data. We already have a sludge humification plant, but we want to go one step further and, with the help of a pilot plant, see whether the ecological cycle can also be completed where sludge is concerned.

Do the prizes help to convince your neighbours to emulate you?
Perhaps not our immediate neighbours, but many other municipalities certainly. I get lots of visits from mayors and their councillors. These exchanges have had huge repercussions because the things we're doing are no longer visions, but a reality, and they're all cost-effective.

Was it difficult initially to convince the population of Wildpoldsried of your visions?
They're not just "my" visions. We must have had at least ten people since the early 1990s who have been involved with this topic. From the very outset the population was certainly receptive to the ideas. Now the climate is such that everyone wants to contribute in one way or another. Even if it's just a matter of replacing your heating pump with a high-efficiency pump and save 80% electricity as a result. Or whether it's a matter of hooking up to the village heating system or installing solar panels on your roof. Everyone wants to do their bit.

Your idea is to cover the village's entire energy needs through renewables by 2020. Is that feasible?
Of course it's feasible. At the moment, i.e. as at the end of 2008, we're already producing 285% of our total electricity consumption using renewables. We're assuming that in two years' time we'll be producing 500% of our electricity consumption with renewables. We'll be generating a high proportion, but we can't quantify it as yet. I'm not ruling out achieving our objective already in two years' time.

What would you say to other mayors who want to do the same?
Get as much information as you can. There are now quite a few energy communities and you can look up on the internet to see how they did things. Start with small-scale measures and see them through to the end. Then be a role model with your own buildings when it comes to energy efficiency and renewable energy generation. Set up an energy team and with time it'll run by itself.

Project information:
- Country: Germany
- Start date: 01.01.1999
- Three-pillar concept comprising:
o 1. Renewable energy generation and energy savings
o 2. Maximum use of timber as an ecological material for construction measures
o 3. Protection of surface and underground water reserves and ecological sewage treatment
- The municipality already produces more than 250% of its own electricity needs using renewables.
- Building the village heating plant (pellets) cut annual CO2 emissions by 470 tonnes.
- The municipality's positive energy image has inspired other mayors and municipalities to emulate the system, creating a location advantage for businesses operating in that sector.
- 2008: Prize winner in the cc.alps competition organised by CIPRA
- 2009: German Solar Prize

For more information:
www.cipra.org/en/cc.alps/competition (de/en/fr/it/sl)
www.cipra.org/de/competition-cc.alps (de)