enEEbler: Employee cooperatives for renewable energy

Lots of individuals are contributing to the “Energiewende”, too. So why not get something started in a location where people spend a lot of time – like the workplace? The research project “enEEbler” is investigating the opportunities for getting company employees engaged in the transformation of the energy system – and the obstacles that are faced. A practical guide shows how employee engagement is best achieved.

The research project enEEbler brings two groups together: committed individuals, who are already involved in renewables in their personal lives and want to extend this to their workplace, and companies, who not only often consume a lot of energy but also have great potential for generating renewable energy – although they have not yet done so for a variety of reasons.

Engine for progress:

  • expert advice for employee associations
  • great potential for renewable energies and climate protection
  • direct communication of ideas through handbook

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On company premises, from warehouse roofs to unused open spaces, there is still a lot of potential for renewables, especially photovoltaics. Staff associations represent a great opportunity – they not only make economic sense for all participants but also strengthen the sense of community.

It’s great news that these two groups now have the opportunity to come together, because those things that companies often lack when attempting their own energy transition – know-how, time for issues outside the core business, investment with low expected return – can, in principle, be supplied in-house by their own employees.

Research provides the link between personal involvement and opportunities within business

The research project enEEbler focuses on the interface between personal involvement and opportunities for implementation within companies. The project is based at the Alanus University of Arts and Social Sciences in Alfter, which is carrying it out in association with the Nürtingen-Geislingen University of Applied Science and partners B.A.U.M. (the German Association of Environmental Management) and the Borderstep Institute. Through the use of intensive case studies – from large corporations to small environmental pioneers – and by looking at both successful and failed initiatives, the researchers are analysing what prevents employees from engaging in the energy transition and what encourages them.

Identification with the company can be increased, handbook offers support

The results show that, when motivated employees initiate their own projects to transform the energy system in their company, everyone benefits. Employees feel an increased connection and identification with the company, development within the company is stimulated and its image is strengthened. When a company has its own system to generate renewable energy, this represents something special that can give people fresh motivation every day and, at the same time, it improves the energy footprint of the company.

Back in 2014, the initial results were incorporated in a handbook that was jointly published with the Volkswagen Belegschaftsgenossenschaft für regenerative Energien e.G. (staff association for regenerative energy). It contains business ideas and good examples. A practical guide drawing conclusions was released in mid-2016 to mark the end of the project. It identifies which structures can encourage employee engagement in the energy transition, helps to overcome obstacles and should, therefore, leverage the potential demonstrated in the project – especially through the high level of motivation in the workforce. The handbook brings together the tools developed to give practical support to workforce energy associations.


“Employees are still often underestimated. There are many among them who are passionate about supporting the Energiewende and who want to do this at work, too. Everyone benefits when their initiatives are better supported.”

Prof. Susanne Blazejewski, Project Manager

Partners and sponsors

  • Alanus-Hochschule für Kunst und Gesellschaft
  • Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Umwelt Nürtingen-Geislingen
  • B.A.U.M. e.V.
  • Borderstep Institut
  • Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)