Exercising influence – in South Tyrol, Rome and in Europe

SEV represents the interests of its members. This lobbying works: in spring 2013 SEV presented its energy concept (“The Second Way”) to promote “co-operation instead of confrontation” in South Tyrol. One year later the provincial administration set up (as SEV had been requesting for years) an “energy panel” where representatives of SEV could meet on an equal footing with decision-makers from the local energy sector.

Practical work and concept development: SEV holds talks with the government and deputies in Rome. International networks are indispensable in the energy sector. In May 2014, therefore, SEV joined the European Association of Independent Electricity and Gas Distribution Companies (GEODE). The GEODE Federation covers 1,200 energy suppliers in 13 different countries, serving 100 million customers.

SEV of course also represents district heating plant operators. SEV is a member of
FIPER, the Italian Federation of Renewable Energy Producers (Federazione italiana produttori di energia da fonti rinnovabili), with Hanspeter Fuchs of SEV serving as deputy chairman.
A voice that is heard
SEV has a capable voice that is heard well beyond regional boundaries and has since its inception taken part in decision-making at European level, including as a member of the European Association of Medium-Sized Energy Companies (EVME),
founded in 2008. In spring 2014 Rudi Rienzner, Managing Director of the South Tyrol Energy Association, was appointed a “mentor” of the pan-European project (REScoop = Renewable Energy Sources COOPerative). has since 2012 been bringing together enterprises, research institutions and associations. The project aims to promote the co-operative use of renewable energy in Europe and enable cross-border exchanges of know-how. 

The Transatlantic Energy Cooperatives Alliance (TECA) was founded in May 2017. The merger was initiated by European and US energy cooperatives: the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC), which supplies 161,000 customers with electricity in the US state of Virginia, and  the South Tyrol Energy Association .

The aim is for TECA to expand in the coming years into a broad platform for the exchange of transatlantic experiences. Framework conditions will be established in Europe and the USA to facilitate the work of energy cooperatives, with the further possibility of a service structure involving activities on both continents. 

There are also surprising parallels between the history of energy supply in the United States and South Tyrol. The first energy cooperatives came about in the 1920s between the Brenner Pass in the north and Salurn in the south; examples such as Prad or Villnöss show that the farmers, craft workers, entrepreneurs and hoteliers of the era themselves secured the power supply to their valleys. The United States was confronted with a similar challenge ten years later, albeit under very different circumstances. Even in 1934 fewer than 11% of all US farms were supplied with electricity; so in 1935, under the New Deal, the federal government created the US-wide Rural Electrification Administration (REA), whose job was to bring power to rural areas – a perfect example of the Raiffeisen motto of “Helping others to help themselves”. 

The US government thus decided not to establish a centrally-controlled power corporation and instead opted for decentralised development. Under the 1936 Rural Electrification Act, REA granted cheap loans that led to the creation of numerous public utilities and cooperatives. As a result, by 1942 some 50% of all farms had their own electricity connection. Today a total of 900 cooperatives belong to the U.S. umbrella organisation America’s Cooperative Electric Utilities, providing 42 million customers with energy.
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