Lothar Stich
Image caption, Lothar says all his solar panels produce more than twice his energy needs each year

As Germany struggles with the energy crisis sparked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many communities there are trying to wean themselves off gas and oil. Alternative energy solutions have been pioneered by a number of towns. The town wants to be self-sufficient in electricity by the year 2030.

A man pointed at the streetlights near his home. All of them are powered by the sun.

The panels on the lamp posts absorb the sun's rays and store them in a battery at the foot of the post. The lamps are charged by day and used at night.

There is a lot of solar power in the area.

Lothar and his wife keep their electric cars in their garage and he has photovoltaic panels on the roof of his house. Over the course of a year, the panels produce more energy than he needs.

The excess energy is sent to the grid.

We don't need external electricity in the summer because we produce our own. It's not possible in the winter because of the lack of sunlight.

He looked at the person smiling. It is nice to have your own power. You use your own solar electricity to power your car. The sun doesn't bill. It's cheap and it feels good.

Abensberg brewery roof
Image caption, Solar panels are everywhere in Abensberg - even on the roof of the local brewery

The town hall is located in the traditional town centre with cobbled streets. Beer can be smelled in the air from its breweries. There are photovoltaic panels all over the place, even on the kindergarten, the school and the fields.

There are solar panels on the roof of the brewery. The energy they supply has helped to offset inflation, according to its managing director.

According to the energy monitor on the Abensberg website, when I visited, it was cold but sunny, and the town produced over 90 percent of the power it needed to operate. When it is cloudy or dark, the grid needs to be supplemented with energy from the sun.

I was told by the mayor that the town's utilities had formed a partnership with a larger energy company to create their own electricity provider.

He said it brought together local solar and other renewable energy producers and consumers and currently supplied 1,700 customers at considerably cheaper prices than normal.

The town needs to be self-sufficient by the year 2030.

Abensberg will be able to produce 300% of the electricity it needs by the year 2030.

Uwe Brandl
Image caption, Mayor Uwe Brandl says he wants Abensberg to be energy self-sufficient by the end of the decade

He said the energy crisis was focusing people's attention on renewable energy.

After gas became very expensive as a result of the conflict in Ukranian, alternative energy production gained steam. Many consumers are considering energy independence because of that.

In the last year, Germany got 45% of its gas from Russia, but in the summer it fell to 34%.

The German Chancellor has ordered the country's three remaining nuclear power stations to stay online until mid-April.

There is a plan to phase out coal in the drive for green energy.

Abensberg still has a long way to go when it comes to self-sufficiency in energy according to a town council member.

She said it was only theoretical. When the sun shines, there is no storage of solar energy.

Magdalena Groll-Zieglmeier and Richard Zieglmeier
Image caption, Magdalena and Richard have solar panels on their roof - but know more needs to be done

The town's environment officer, Richard, and his wife, Magdalena, recently added new solar panels and a heating pump to their house, which warms in the winter and cools in the summer. Houses for solar power need a lot of investment.

It's a matter of money to decide what to do with our old house. You have to wait for a long time because there aren't many workers that can build heating or photovoltaic systems.

For Richard, it was about the future.

It's very important for me. We need to go this way. We need to save our planet.

  • Russia-Ukraine war
  • Solar power
  • Germany
  • Renewable energy