What if I told you that you could help reduce fossil fuels by drinking locally harvested wine? That’s right – you heard me. No giving up your beloved steaks. No skimping on heat in the frosty winter (well, you know, maybe eat just a little less meat and stuff). Just. Keep. Drinking. Collective Energy, a start-up in Vienna, is offering all wine lovers a chance to be a part of the renewable energy transition, one bottle at a time.
It all started with two young Austrians, Julian & Christoph, and their passion for environmental studies at the Universität für Bodenkultur in Vienna. With complimentary Master’s Degrees in Environmental and Biological Resource Management as well as Energy Management and Environmental Politics, the duo came up with an idea to speed up the energy transition. Their motto? “Energie. Gemeinsam. Denken.” Or, Thinking of energy, collectively. After swapping ideas with multiple stakeholders, they developed a business model that could contribute to climate mitigation for generations to come.
“The idea is that significant climate change mitigation is only possible through wide-scale, individualised contributions. Our model offers everyone the opportunity to take part in the movement towards renewable energy, which is ultimately necessary to the movement’s success.” Christoph told us.
“With that in mind, if we make it so that people’s regular purchasing patterns can directly finance a business’ transition to renewable energy production, we’ve helped everyone in the process – big and small.” Julian explained.
Their first project – helping a local brewery make the transition to solar energy production – was a big hit. The two then set up fort at Impact Hub Vienna in 2014 and, winning both the Social Impact Award for 2014 as well as the Social Impact Start Stipendium, were well on their way.
You Get Fresh Air! And You Get Fresh Air! And You Get Fresh Air!
Their model? Pre-sales crowdfunding with a goal: you help fund the energy transition today, and as a token of appreciation, you get locally grown wine delivered to your door for the next 5 years. Not a bad deal, huh?
Take Walek Winery for example – one of Collective Energy’s three original projects. The Waleks live and breathe (and probably drink) wine. Their winery, home to their three children and nestled in Poysdorf (Lower Austria), specialises in white wine. Their latest project? Building a solar-powered cooling system for the warm summer months. Their challenge? Footing the bill for the photovoltaic cell installations.
That’s where Collective Energy came in. “We set up their web page, threw fundraising events, consulted them on their marketing methods, and put together a system of pre-sales vouchers that enabled their customers – some regulars and others newly attracted by our campaigning efforts – to contribute to the costs of the PV installation in return for Walek’s specialty wine,” Julian told us.
Then, Collective Energy connected Walek with local installers and providers, and next thing you know, Walek just financed their own transition to renewable energy through their most available currency – wine.
In a matter of weeks after consulting Collective Energy, Waleks’s wine cellar was being kept cool by 30kWp of PV solar panels that would save an annual 8.4 tons of CO2 emissions for the next 25 years. Isn’t renewable energy magical?
And the best part for us, the wine-lovers (besides prolonging the existence of the only planet that can sustain human life)? The packages offered are arguably affordable! For Collective Energy’s current project with Pölz, another family of Austrian winemakers on the green edges of Vienna, an upfront payment of 150 euro gets you 200-euro worth of wine delivered to your door once a year for five years. Or your best friend’s door. Or your mom’s door (is it too early for next year’s Mother’s Day present?). “It’s really about including everyone in this energy revolution – from students to wealthy businesspersons who harbour environmental concerns and an appreciation for local businesses,” Christoph told us. “The only way to effectively tackle climate change and pollution is, after all, on a wide scale. Every effort counts.”
Moving Forward – Literally
“At the moment, we’re setting up our first venture into e-mobility in Landshut, Germany. The model is similar – the local municipality and a local business cover the upfront costs of installing an e-car sharing hub, while the local community pays those costs back as they partake in the pre-sales e-car sharing scheme over the next years,” Julian explained.
The result? An attractive and cheap e-mobility solution for the local community and local businesses. A higher usage rate and a lower risk for the operator. Less greenhouse gas emissions. More space for Landshut residents. Less car maintenance costs for residents. And an extra car always available for those weekend adventures that justified storing an extra hunk of costly, gas guzzling metal in the garage in the first place.
“We still want to continue with smaller PV projects, but we figured e-mobility plans could really help out families in smaller cities and towns that have a 2nd or 3rd car they don’t really use that often but are reluctant to give up. Now, they’ll always have access to an extra environmentally friendly car, should they need it, without having to pay upkeep or store the car on their own,” Christoph told us.
So, are you craving a nice, chilled, locally grown glass of Welschriesling and a strong gust of crisp, fossil fuel-free summer air yet? Well do I have good news for you! There are still a few Pölz wine packet deals floating around until the end of June. Click here to save Mother Earth in return for a well-earned drink.