The development of the German Biogas Association – from 1991 to todayIn 1991, Andreas Krieg sat in his office in Weckelweiler, Germany and was preparing the biogas courses at the agricultural school there. At the time, he had already been constructing his first biogas plants together with Erwin Köberle, a heating engineer, Ekkehard Schneider, an electrical engineer, and Gert Beck, a farm equipment manufacturer. Gaining all these experiences with the fermentation of biogenic substances and with using the biogas produced to generate energy, they wanted to share it with others.
At the same time of these few first biogas courses, just a few kilometers toward the north in Boxberg, Bundschuh, a local, alternative organization for farmers, had already established a biogas group in the mid-1980s.
From 15 – 18 December 1991, the biogas community, still very small at the time, met at the Hohenlohe agricultural school for their first annual conference. This is where the idea to found the German Biogas Association came about. On 14 February 1992, seventeen founding members met at the farm of Erich Holz to officially establish the Fachverband Biogas e.V., the German Biogas Association. The Executive Board consisted of the farmers Erich Holz and Rainer Gansloser, the engineers Erwin Köberle and Gert Beck, and Heinz-Peter Mang, employee of the former Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ). Erwin Köberle was elected as the first Chairman of the board and Michael Köttner as Managing Director of the office to be set up in the agricultural school.
In the early years, leadership within the Association changed several times: after two terms in office, Erwin Köberle, was succeeded in 1996 by Heinz Schulz, for whom the Association’s medal of honor is named; shortly before his death in 1998, Barbara Eder took over his position for about two years. She was succeeded by Egbert Gai, who adhered to the two-year cycle as the last Chairman of the Association’s board.
The Biogas Association was in turmoil; Michael Köttner resigned from his position as Managing Director. The administrative office moved from Weckelweiler to Freising and Andrea Patten temporarily took over the role as Managing Director until Dr. Claudius da Costa Gomez accepted the position in April 2000, which he still holds today. In the same month, the German Renewable Energy Act (EEG) was passed, which gave both the biogas industry and other renewable energy sources a crucial boost.
In 2004, the Association’s conference started to alternate among Leipzig, Nuremberg and Hanover. In the same year, the EEG introduced the a bonus for renewable materials (NaWaRo-Bonus), which resulted in the final breakthrough for biogas in Germany. Along with the number of plants, the number of members in the Association and participants in the conference also increased. In 2006, the 2000th member was officially greeted in Hanover; the 4000th in Nuremberg in 2011.
Horst Seide has been President of the German Biogas Association since 31 January 2013. After 12 years, Josef Pellmeyer resigned his position and was at once elected Honorary President of the Association.
More than 40 fulltime employees now work for the Biogas Association, at the headquarters in Freising, at the Berlin office, and at the five regional offices in the north, south, west, east and southwest.
The annual conferences have become a permanent institution in the area of biogas extending beyond the borders of both Germany and Europe. Up to 9,000 participants from all over the world attend the individual events. What started as a spontaneous idea is now an essential part of the industry.