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When the project is complete, the city will have 30 PV systems

Small-town Austria involves citizens in the energy transition

Small-town Austria involves citizens in the energy transition

In Dornbirn, citizens bought up all the municipally-issued shares in a photovoltaic project in just 10 days

Today, local authorities in Dornbirn, Austria, announced that all the shares in the city’s new photovoltaic project were sold in just 10 days. The project will involve setting up solar panels on municipal buildings like fire stations, schools and kindergartens, which will be financed through small scale citizen-driven investment.

The project also aims at helping people who lack the means to set up a solar farm themselves get in on the green energy transition. The new solar energy system should work to reach the city’s 2030 climate goals to triple sustainable energy production.

Citizen-driven renewable energy

To help finance the green energy push, Dornbirn officials issued 499 low-cost investment shares that were available to the citizens. The shares were issued on 1 April and cost 500 euros each, with the city offering 600 euros as returns. According to a statement by authorities, though, the returns will be paid over the span of 10 years in the form of vouchers for groceries, worth 60 euros each.

This photovoltaic project should add panels to seven municipal buildings, including fire stations kindergartens and schools. They will add contribute to the city’s overall solar production capacity, currently at 23 systems.

When combined, the renewable energy output from the municipal systems is estimated to generate enough electricity to power 260 homes and save 265 tons of CO2 per year.

Crowdfunding green energy – the decentralised nature of the sustainability transition

The citizen-driven renewable projects scheme in Dornbirn echoes similar projects that have been implemented in Vienna. According to local authorities in the Austrian capital, over 10,000 Viennese citizens have collectively invested over 38 million euros in municipal photovoltaic systems.

Currently, 28 ‘citizen-solar power plants’ operating in Vienna and Lower Austria produce 20.5 megawatts of electricity, powering over 8,400 households. Furthermore, they allow the city to save 12,000 tons of carbon emissions every year.

Opening up investment into the green energy transition from the side of local authorities is able to draw a lot of funds, as well as decentralise and democratise the energy sector – dividing ownership among citizens.  

Dornbirn City Councilor Karin Feurstein explained that the city wants to involve citizens in environmental and energy programmes. She also said that this is supposed to inspire people to take action themselves.

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