Malchin citizens' jury wants to get off the gas

18. April 2024

The city of Malchin is the first German municipality to consult its residents when planning its future heating supply. On 16 April 2024, a citizens' jury submitted its recommendations to the city council. Fossil gas shall soon no longer play a role in the city.

Heat planning, use of renewable energies, building energy law - the town of Malchin also has to deal with the opportunities, risks and possibilities of its future heat and energy supply due to legal requirements. "As representatives of the city, it is important for us to find out what ideas, thoughts and recommendations the citizens have on these topics," writes Mayor Axel Müller (CDU) on the website of the municipality in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, which has a population of just over 7,000.

Utilising biomass

In its recommendations, the Citizens' Jury agrees that biomass should continue to be used for heat supply. Malchin should focus even more on so-called Paludi crops. These are plants from wet fenland areas such as sedges, rushes, reed canary grass and reeds. "It should be investigated whether green waste can be collected or delivered free of charge in order to use it for the biogas plant or the power station," was another recommendation.

The Citizens' Jury is clearly in favour of further expanding the use of solar plants. However, innovative approaches such as covered paths or floating solar systems on peat bogs and water areas should also be examined. The mini-public is also open to the use of geothermal energy.

Criticism of wind energy

However, the citizens' jury takes a critical view of the expansion of wind energy. Points of criticism include the negative impact on the landscape, existing wind farms in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and the sale of electricity outside the city, meaning that energy production and utilisation take place in different locations. In terms of the affordability of a renewable heat supply, wind turbines are acceptable under certain circumstances in the opinion of the majority of the Citizens' Jury.

The mini-public also makes recommendations regarding an operator model. It should make the prices of the heat supply socially acceptable and the city should have an extensive say in business decisions. The citizens should become shareholders. The Citizens' Council Jury attaches great importance to maximising public participation in heat planning.

City representatives want to take recommendations into account

At the handover event, several city representatives pledged to take the Citizens' Jury's recommendations into account.

For the mini-public, 65 residents were randomly selected from the city's population register. The aim of the random selection for the Citizens' Jury was

  • that the Citizens' Jury should consist of half men and half women
  • that one half should be made up of citizens aged between 16 and 40 and the other half of citizens aged between 41 and 80
  • one fifth of the seats should be filled by citizens from the local neighbourhoods in proportion to their share of the city's population

Support from experts and facilitators

Between the beginning of February and the beginning of March, the randomly selected citizens discussed Malchin's future heating supply in a total of four evening meetings. They first heard presentations from various experts on the topic and were able to ask questions. Moderators then helped them to discuss different opinions and interests in small groups. The respective results were voted on by all members of the Citizens' Jury and recommendations for action for Malchin were agreed at the end.

This involved questions such as:

  • Which renewable energy sources can and should be part of the town's future heat and energy supply?
  • Should the town rely on geothermal energy?
  • How much additional electricity may need to be generated with photovoltaic systems to operate heat pumps?
  • Which areas can be used for this?
  • Should the city itself become economically active?

"Joining in is better than complaining"

Participants were satisfied with the Citizens' Jury. "Joining in is always better than complaining," said Meinhardt Stange, commenting on the proceedings. That's why he immediately said "yes" when asked about his participation.

Mayor Axel Müller explained his support for the Citizens' Jury by citing, among other things, the consequences of a compulsory connection and use of district heating: "The idea was that it might be good if we put this on a broader footing, that people are informed, that the members of the Citizens' Jury then also take it further and we get more acceptance that way."

Citizens' Jury 2023 decided

The city council decided to hold the Citizens' Assembly on 3 May 2023. Following this, a steering group was formed consisting of representatives from the city council and citizens from Malchin, who brought a wide range of perspectives to the table. Together, they worked out the specific organisation of the Citizens' Jury: What questions should be discussed? What should be considered in the random selection process?

The members of the steering group were not themselves part of the Citizens' Jury and did not have any influence on the selection of the jury members or its results.

The mini-public was organised by the Citizens' Jury team of the Initiative Zukunftshandeln MV and funded by the German Foundation for Commitment and Volunteering.

Learn more