Bertram Fleck, being for 26 years in office as the president of the Rhein-Hunsrück district, took very early the decision to analyse how to keep the local money for local infrastructure investment and reduce the ecologic impact at the same time. Introducing an energy controlling system in district-owned buildings, he and his team turned an underdeveloped poor district into a place where people from all over the world come to get inspired. By combining energy efficiency with a bundle of blended energy production based on wind, solar and biomass, including a local district heating networks, the projections announce the Hunsrück district to become zero-emissions by 2018. In addition to infrastructural changes, he initiated extra-scholar learning places where kids from very early age get specially designed lessons about renewable energy and waste. He is a very active motivator, engaged with all his heart in the energy transition and a giving person who travels the world to inspire others.
“This is one of the things that I learnt here: It doesn’t matter if I have the money or not. If you have the idea, don’t think about the big things, just start with whatever you have” Francis Agyenim, Director of the Institute for Industrial Research, Ghana about his visit to Rhein-Hunsrück district: „So, this Rhein-Hunsrück is the symbol of a two-axis change, from fossil and nuclear and big monopoly structure to small, local and bottom-up and renewable and sustainable future. That is the most important symbol of the future.” Bertram Fleck, being for 26 years in office as the president of the Rhein-Hunsrück district (“Landrat” i.e. County commissioner, or district administrator), took very early the decision to analyse how to keep the local money for local infrastructure investment and reduce the ecologic impact at the same time. Nominated in 1989 as president, Bertram Fleck started with the introduction of an energy controlling system in district-owned buildings. The district started to install renewable energies production at school and public buildings as from 2002. In 2006, it decided to introduce an energy concept with a local and regional material flow management for the entire district. In 2010 a Climate protection concept has been agreed with the realisation of concept part 1 from 2012-2015 (climate protection manager; expansion of local concepts; public services through renewable energy; civic participation). Tetsunari Iida, Japanese former nuclear engineer and now an icon of the 100% movement put the Rhein-Hunsrück district at first of the 7 examples for energy transition in his cinema film “Japan and the Renewal –The gigawatt strategy from sun and wind”: “Heroes are at work there, doers and implementers. In barely a decade, they have succeeded in increasing the production of renewable electricity from virtually nothing to hundreds of times that level. And that has created jobs and work on the ground.” Bertram Fleck and his team turned an underdeveloped poor district into a place where people from all over the world come to get inspired. Delegations from 40 countries have been visiting. The comprehensive measures of the district lead to a considerable increase in regional added value and avoidance of energy import costs as well as the creation of new jobs. The exemplary concept shows that the energy transition is only possible with the participation and commitment of the municipalities. Nowadays the district has the lowest per capita debt of counties within in the Rhineland – Palatinate region and will be the first district with a net “zero-carbon-impact”. Just to remember: 20 years ago, not a single kilowatt hour was generated here in the district. They had multiple approaches: energy efficiency combined with a bundle of blended energy production based on wind, solar and biomass. Hunsrück district advanced in the heat sector, the construction of local district heating networks (solar thermal and waste wood). All in all, this means that by end 2018 at the latest Hunsrück district will become the first zero-emissions county.
Landrat Fleck, now a kind of “Honorary ambassador for the energy transition” being in office for 26 years started in 1999 to analyse how much money leaves the district for energy: € 290 million. A lot for a small district with a bad infrastructure and little industry. So they started to look for solutions. They started a 1000 roof PV- program, that brought more than 4,200 photovoltaic plants, invested in 18 local heating networks, electric cars, smart grids, smart operator, and stimulated the activities in communities using the income from wind and solar to get fit for the future. Green “waste” is collected in a de-central way in 120 spots and treated centrally to produce the resources for wood energy installations for public buildings of the district like schools and administration. The co-operative approach of Mr. Fleck focussed particularly on small municipalities with limited budgets to convince them about the benefits of renewable energy sources for their municipalities and the positive change it could bring. Several municipalities were able to realise projects (like a spectacular bridge in a tourist area that attracts several times more visitors than predicted, with another big economic impact. This project would not have been possible without the revenues generated by local renewable energy sources.
The impacts brought by Mr. Fleck’s approach are plentiful: transforming €290 million of energy expenditures into local investment, creating local added value and local jobs, avoiding or reducing climate damage provoked by carbon-based energy use. Since the district introduced their energy management system, heat demand was reduced by 25%, and water consumption by 26%. Overall, 9.500 t CO2 emissions have been avoided, saving 2.000.000€ in costs. The dedicated energy efficiency programme couldn’t avoid a rise of 5% in electricity demand, however, this number would have been of about 30% without the efficiency programme since the number of PC’s have doubled. Fleck‘s Credo for all, who want to make energy turn literally („Energiewende“): Watch at the local value chain! Over the last 15 years, 1.3 billion euros have been invested in renewable energies in the Rhine-Hunsrück district alone. At least 100 million euros of this had remained as contracts with craftsmen in the region. But even more interesting is the annually recurring value added from the operation of these plants, which now amounts to 44 million euros per year. In all political decisions the citizens have been included, this procedure of civil participation led to a new dynamic with the villages and a re-enforcement of the democratic basis. Especially in areas with negative demographic development, the additional revenues were invested in measure to raise the attractiveness of the commune.
The Rhein-Hunsrück area had been a less developed area in Western Germany struggling with a permanent defection of young, well-educated people to find jobs in nearby industrial areas. With the long-term vision and profound understanding of the benefits of the energy transition for his territory, president Fleck found co-funding for innovative solutions for local energy production. Always looking for innovative projects and always showing open-mindedness, Mr. Fleck found solutions that he adapted to the needs of his territory and convinced his local mayors and citizens to join him on his way to the Rhein-Hunsrück-transition. The initiative of Mr. Fleck led to the development of “energy efficiency guidelines” for citizens: in more than 40 municipalities, citizens can get financial support for private efficiency measures (changing light bulbs, fridges etc.). In order to raise citizens’ awareness, two efficiency competitions have been organised: “Who got the oldest fridge?” and “oldest heat pump” for a heating system. The 1st prize was a brand-new system. Thanks to these competitions, more and more people started to be aware of energy efficiency. One of Mr. Fleck’s most impressive ideas has been the creation of “ausserschulische Lernwelten” (extra-scholar learning places) where kids from very early age get specially designed lessons about renewable energy and waste, following the slogan: “If you want to change the world, start with the children”.
Bertram Fleck is a very active motivator, engaged with all his heart in the energy transition and a giving person who travels the world to inspire others with presentations in Canada, the USA, Japan and participates as well in local and regional conferences like Kassel 100% Renewable Energy conferences to share his experience and support others on their own way to their local Energy transition with a strong local economy impact. Although already retired, president Fleck actively shares his experiences and stimulates others to follow the Hunsrück-example for their own Climate concept. Japanese TV’s blockbuster on Energy transition mentioned Rhein-Hunsrück. Germany’s first presentation took place here. In June 2018, Mr. Fleck welcomed in his hometown the French delegation from the village Le Mené (which won a special Prize at the Roger Léron Award Ceremony 2016) to share with them his experience. More than 300 citizens from all over the district have participated in the climate protection concept. They understood the economic impact on their district and on their own jobs. Many measures have been developed over the years. The inhabitants of the district were inspired by other -doers – for example from Freiburg, Osnabrück, and places in Switzerland and Austria. Now they think it is their turn to host visitors – coming so far from more than 34 nations worldwide to be inspired. Local heating networks. Photovoltaic plants that do a good job on the old landfill. Several large wind farms, but that’s only a part of it. The overall concept takes a holistic approach and integrates heavily the local population. This is the reason why the locals are so proud of what they have achieved.