A village engaged in the energy transition

A village engaged in the energy transition


Ulf Ehlers and his Boben Op association get one project after another going in his village – for the environment, for the climate, for a better life.

Hürup is “Boben op” – right at the top – on the map of Germany. Around 8,700 people live in the municipality near Flensburg, 140 of whom are involved in the Boben Op Klima- und Energiewende e.V.: farmers, housewives and house-husbands, pupils and students, they are all there.

Ulf Ehlers, responsible for collaborations in project planning of wind and solar parks at GP JOULE, is one of the founding members and second chairman. “We just wanted to make a difference,” he says, “for the energy transition, for the community, for the people. Definitely to stand for something – rather than just against things.”

And Ehlers and Boben Op have been busy since 2012: they bring local heat to Hürup. They take care of humus enrichment. Members have joined forces to buy energy together. A group is currently developing an area for “Tiny Houses”. An electrician runs a village repair shop. And the Boben Op Citizens’ Solar Consultancy gives tips on a voluntary basis on how to implement private photovoltaic projects. The projects are not about something being as big or sensational as possible, explains Ehlers, but about it firstly being feasible and secondly making the energy transition fun and exciting. Ideas are collected at the regulars’ table, called the “think tank”. The association’s board, in which the mayors of the district are also represented, prepares its resolutions. The general meeting then decides which ideas will be put into practice. And then one of these ideas suddenly becomes big, like the ride-sharing bench, a kind of on-demand bus stop. Only without a bus. Anyone sitting on the bench needs a lift. You indicate where you want to go using signs mounted on a hinge. At some point, someone will stop and give you a lift. Public transport beyond public transport. There are now 300 ride-sharing benches throughout Schleswig-Holstein.

Another initiative uses the experience farmers in the association have in building up humus. A guide is currently being prepared to motivate fellow campaigners and to make their journey easier. A certificate is also in the works, together with the federal and state governments. The project recently received a funding commitment of €300,000 from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. Humus is the fertile top layer of soil full of organic components that is increasingly being lost in conventional agriculture. It can absorb more carbon and needs less fertiliser than the now typical arable soil. Ehlers goes into raptures: “You can clearly see what this humus can do! You only need to hold two handfuls of soil next to each other. Humus soil is loose and moist, full of earthworms and life, while the one in the next field is dry.”

Reduce, reuse, recycle – this can also be done in the countryside. Boben Op shows the way. “We are often asked whether we can do something like this for other regions, but unfortunately we can’t,” says Ulf Ehlers. “But we are transparent with everything. We show how we did it and offer guided tours.” Imitation is positively encouraged.