Tenant power in the Paul Pfeiffer Haus: When the church becomes the energy supplier

In Erkelenz, the evangelical church has launched an unusual project. To repair a defective combined heat and power (CHP) unit and make its future use economically viable, volunteers in the parish began a “tenant power” project. As a result – and quite by accident – the church has become an energy supplier.

The Paul Pfeiffer Haus in Erkelenz was built in the 1970s to include 13 residential units. It is maintained by the parishioners of the evangelical church in Erkelenz and provides affordable housing for vulnerable tenants. About ten years ago, a CHP unit was installed to heat the building as efficiently as possible and, in the process, feed the generated electricity into the public grid. However, there were repeated problems with the system that ultimately led to the inoperability of the CHP unit.

Engine for progress:

  • Volunteering as a driver of climate protection
  • Financial relief for the tenants
  • Role model for similar organisations

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Photo Ulrich Leister

Each apartment participating in the tenant power project has been equipped with a smart meter. The meters that have been used enable a detailed visualisation of the energy consumption of each specific apartment in two-second periods.

A church breaks new ground

This then raised the question for the church of how the heating supply for the building could be provided on a climate-friendly and, at the same time, cost-effective basis in future. The church’s management body – the presbytery – came up with the idea of using the electricity produced in the CHP unit directly in the residential building in future, thus establishing a tenant power model – a completely new idea for everyone involved. The objective was to recover the investment costs incurred (for the overhaul of the CHP unit, necessary modifications and the installation of smart meters) as well as the running costs over a ten-year period by selling the electricity generated on a non-profit basis. At the same time, the low cost of electricity and heating should also relieve the financial burden on the tenants.

This is achieved when the power is sold to the tenants for 18 cents/kWh – sustainable for the parish and a real relief for the tenants. For electricity demands in excess of the amount provided by the CHP unit, the system falls back on the public power grid and the local energy supplier. Another interesting point is that a two-tier tariff model applies – consisting of the 18 cents/kWh for electricity from the CHP unit and the cost of electricity from the grid via the local utility company. With regard to the electricity bill, the amount payable is precisely itemised and calculated using consumption figures based on the energy rate for power from the CHP unit and electricity from the grid. Passing on the cheaper CHP tariff has created an incentive to carry out power-hungry activities during the CHP unit’s specified operating times.

Successful model for other organisations

Amongst other factors, this initiative was made possible thanks to the metering concept of the Aachen-based provider of smart metering solutions, Discovergy. The company has a lot of experience with tenant power projects and was brought in as a new electricity meter operator. This not only benefits the church, but also the local energy supplier, which was also new to the subject of tenant power. Supported by the commitment and perseverance of the church’s volunteers, partnerships and various synergy effects were developed and the tenant power project at the Paul Pfeiffer Haus has become a role model for other parishes and organisations.

Photo: Ulrich Leister

The Evangelical Church of Erkelenz has set itself the goal of protecting Creation. Climate protection has a significant role to play. With the tenant power project, we are saving approx. 19,000 kg of CO2 emissions per year. And with our photovoltaic system, we are supporting climate protection by reducing CO2. But we also want to keep on increasing our own contribution by taking additional steps.

Ulrich Leister, member of the church council responsible for building maintenance for the Evangelical Church of Erkelenz

Partners and sponsors

  • Evangelische Kirchengemeinde Erkelenz